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Communists Lost, Labor Gained in Israeli Arab Voting

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If there was any surprise in Tuesday’s Knesset elections it was the strong support Israel’s Arab voters gave the Labor Alignment at the expense of Hadash, the Communist front faction sponsored by the pro-Moscow Rakah party. The results in the Arab sector marked the first setback for the Communists there in 22 years.

Rakah won four Knesset seats, down one from the outgoing Knesset while Labor gained almost three seats from Arab votes although there were only two Arabs on the election list. Hadash won 60,000 or 40 percent of the Arab votes and remains the strongest Arab party in Israel. Considering that it had won 51 percent of the Arab vote in 1977, its showing Tuesday is regarded as a major political defeat.

The Labor Alignment won 40,000 Arab votes, 3000 of them in the Communist stronghold of Nazareth. This was an increase of 300 percent over previous elections. According to political analysts, Labor’s strong showing among the Arab population was in large measure a protest against the Likud government. But it also indicated that Israeli Arabs ignored directives from the Palestine Liberation Organization to vote Communist and made their choice out of purely “Israeli” considerations.

Three minor independent Arab lists failed to win sufficient votes to gain Knesset representation. Former Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s Telem party which has campaigned hard in the Arab sector, polled only 100 votes, all from Negev Bedouins.

The Labor Alignment suffered a defeat among the Druze. According to a still incomplete tally, most of their votes went to Sheikh Jaber Mu’adi, a member of the outgoing Knesset. Likud ranked second among the Druze, the Communists third and Labor fourth.

Druze who had previously supported Labor defected, apparently because of Alignment sympathy with the Arab village of Kufer Yassif which was attacked by Druze villagers three months ago.

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