Arab Turnout at Polls is High, but Vote is Spread Among Parties

Israel’s Arab community failed again on Tuesday to realize its potential as a force in Israeli politics.

Although some 270,000 of the 350,000 eligible Arab voters cast ballots a 78 percent voter turnout they benefited neither themselves nor the Jewish moderates who could be their allies, analysts said.

Altogether the Arabs won 13 Knesset seats, which, if united, would constitute a formidable bloc. But the Arab vote was fragmented among half a dozen or so parties, diluting whatever political influence it may have brought to bear.

Instead of creating a bloc that might have enabled the Labor Party to form a governing coalition, the Arabs failed even to establish a “preventive bloc” to keep Likud from forming a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox and extreme right-wing parties.

For the first time, Arab support for the Zionist parties fell below 50 percent. Most Arab votes went to the Hadash Communist Party, the Progressive List for Peace and the newly formed Arab Democratic Party.

The Communists and the Progressive List dissociate themselves from the Zionist nature of Israel and are automatically excluded from the coalition-building process.

The Arab Democratic Party was founded by Abdel Wahab Darousha, a former member of Labor’s Knesset faction. It is the only purely Arab party, Hadash and the Progressive List being binational.

LABOR LOST ARAB SUPPORT

Labor gained a seat and a half from the Arab vote, in contrast to the 3 seats it won from Arab voters in the 1984 elections.

This was certainly due in part to Arab anger at the harsh measures taken by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to suppress the Palestinian uprising in the administered territories. The rest of the Arab votes were split among the Citizens Rights Movement and Mapam, on the left; Likud, on the right; and the National Religious Party.

Likud and the NRP have traditional power bases among Israeli Arabs, because they control services granted to them.

Arab political clout is further fragmented by the strong animosity between the Communists and the Progressive List.

They were unable to reach an agreement on the allocation of surplus votes (those that result in a party winning a fraction of a seat, which can then be combined with another party’s fraction).

The result was that 30,000 to 40,000 Arab votes were wasted. The two Knesset seats they represented could have prevented Likud from forming a government.

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