Palestinian-Israelis vote amid campaign of intimidation
Palestinian-Israelis cast their votes in Israel's legislative elections on Tuesday, amid efforts by Israel's far-right to prevent their participation in the polls.
Four major Palestinian-Israeli parties are running in the elections as part of a coalition known as the Joint List. There are major ideological differences between them – the list includes the left-wing Hadash group and the Arab nationalist National Democratic Assembly (Balad).
In the 2015 elections for the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, the Joint List won 13 seats out of 120, becoming the third largest party.
However, just before the April 2019 elections, the Joint List broke up amid differences between its component parties. It was re-formed in late July.
The break-up of the Joint List resulted in reduced Palestinian-Israeli turnout in the April 2019 elections and a reduced number of seats for its component parties. Only 49% of Palestinian-Israelis turned out to vote in April and Arab parties only won 10 seats.
Opinion polls predict that the Joint List will receive 11-12 seats in this election and an Arab turnout of at least 60%. This could make it the third largest party in the Knesset again, able to potentially influence who will form the next government, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party runs neck-and-neck with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Coalition.
Netanyahu has been engaged in a campaign to prevent Palestinian-Israelis voting. On Tuesday morning, some voters in Palestinian-Israeli towns found polling stations closed even though they were supposed to be open at 7:00 am.
Facebook previously suspended a chatbot operated by Netanyahu's official page for inciting hatred against Arabs after it told Israeli voters “Arabs want to annihilate us all”.
Activists from Netanyahu’s Likud party have placed cameras in Arab polling stations in an effort to intimidate Arab voters. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reported that the Likud Party had prepared recorded messages, to be sent to hundreds of thousands of Jewish-Israeli voters, warning them of a high Arab turnout in the elections.
Palestinian-Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained in their towns and villages in 1948, when Zionist militias expelled the vast majority of Palestinians from what became Israel. They make up roughly 21% of the Israeli population and an estimated 940,000 of them have the right to vote.