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Palestinian parties in Israel unite before September Knesset election

The parties hope their reunification will boost Arab turnout in forthcoming elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 July, 2019

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Plans for the coalition were finalised when the National Democratic Assembly, known as Balad, agreed to join the list.
Palestinian political parties in Israel have agreed to form a unified coalition to run in forthcoming elections, hoping to boost turnout among Palestinian-Israelis, who make up one fifth of Israel's population.

Plans for the coalition were finalised when the National Democratic Assembly (known as Balad) agreed to join the list.

The coalition will include the four main Palestinian parties in Israel – the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (known as Hadash), the United Arab List (Ra'am), the Arab Movement for Renewal (Ta'al), and Balad.

The parties had originally formed a Joint List for the 2015 elections, gaining 13 seats in the 120-member Knesset and becoming the third largest grouping in Israel's parliament.

However, this broke up just before the April 2019 Israeli elections due to rivalries between the parties, who have a diverse array of ideologies.

Balad is identified with Palestinian nationalism, for example, while Hadash is a left-wing party which includes Arab and Jewish Marxists.

The April 2019 elections saw a decrease in the number of Knesset seats held by Arab parties to 10, as Palestinian voters stayed at home. Palestinian-Israeli turnout fell from 64 percent in the 2015 elections to 49 percent in April 2019.

The new agreement means that the Joint List will be re-created. The parties now predict that they can win 11 or 12 seats in forthcoming elections and once again become the third largest group in the Knesset.

Israel faces an unprecedented repeat election in September after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition government. Instead, his ruling Likud party advanced a bill to dissolve parliament, sending Israelis to the polls for a second time in 2019.

Ayman Odeh, the head of Hadash, said that the now that the parties have reunited, they can address the "great challenge" facing Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are Arabs and their descendants who remained on their land when Israel was formed in 1948. Before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Zionist militias expelled 85 percent of the Palestinian Arab population in what became Israel.

The Palestinian community in Israel suffers discrimination in education, housing, and healthcare and has lower living standards than the Jewish majority.

The Joint List re-merger came days before this week's deadline for Israeli political parties to finalise their lineups before the elections.

Last week, former prime minister Ehud Barak and the left-wing Meretz party announced a merger to form the Democratic Union, whose stated aim is to oust Netanyahu, who became Israel's longest-serving prime minister earlier this month.

Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who assumed the leadership of her New Right party last week, is negotiating a union with a constellation of religious nationalist parties headed by Education Minister Rafi Peretz. The New Right party failed to win enough votes in April's election to enter the Knesset.

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