Arab Announces Candidacy for Prime Minister of Israel

What do Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Azmi Beshara have in common?

All three have declared that they intend to run for prime minister in the next Israeli election.

The intentions of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Barak, a Labor Party Knesset member and former foreign minister, are already well known.

But Beshara who?

Beshara, an Arab member of Knesset, said this week that he had little chance of winning. But he said his candidacy would advance the interests of Israel’s Arab citizens.

A third candidate for premier would force a runoff between the leaders of Labor and Likud, Beshara said.

Israeli Arabs “will then become a political force, which both major parties will court, and they will give in to the national and daily demands of that force,” he said.

“Thus we will cease to be a reserve of ballots for the Labor Party.” Labor leader Shimon Peres won 95 percent of the Arab vote in the May election.

Beshara, a lecturer of philosophy at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, won a Knesset seat in May as a member of Hadash, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality.

He has been outspoken in demanding cultural autonomy for Israeli Arabs, and in calling for a redefinition of Israel as the “state of all its citizens,” rather than a “Jewish state.”

The next national election is slated for the year 2000.

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