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Arab-communist Bloc to Run for Histadrut

August 25, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A new Communist-Arab coalition that in theory could change the face of Israeli politics will test its strength in the Histadrut trade federation elections in November.

Three left-wing parties joined forces Monday to present a joint list, not only for election to the Histadrut Central Committee but to the NA’AMAT women’s labor organization and the regional labor councils.

The coalition consists of the Democratic Front, a front organization of the Communist Party; the Progressive List for Peace and Equality; and the Arab Democratic Party.

It is the first time the major political groups with influence in the Israeli Arab sector have joined forces in an elections.

The Communists and Progressives in fact have been archenemies for years, each competing for the Arab vote.

Both have looked askance at the Arab Democratic Party formed by Abd-el Wahab Darousha, a former Labor Knesset member, who defected in protest over Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s tough policies toward the Palestinian uprising.

Darousha’s party and the Progressive List emerged from last year’s Knesset elections with one seat apiece. The Communists won four.

The three parties apparently realized the folly of letting their differences take precedence over their common interests. Had they reached an agreement prior to the elections, they might have gained another one or two mandates.

In that case, given the delicate electoral balance that prevailed after the elections, the three leftist parties might, in theory, have given Labor the necessary majority to form a government.

It is unlikely, however, that Labor or any mainstream party would form a coalition with the Communists.

The joint list was not easy to form. Negotiations between the three factions, held at Communist Party headquarters in Haifa, were stormy from beginning to end.

The major controversy was over who would head the list. The Progressives and Darousha wanted an Arab. The Communists insisted on a Jew.

It was not that they had become overnight converts to Zionism but rather how to resolve the practical matter of image.

For years, the Communists have received most of their support from Arab voters. Their institutions are equally divided between Jews and Arabs and they present themselves as a joint Jewish-Arab political force.

Had an Arab headed their Histadrut elections list, the Communists feared they would be identified as an Arab party.

In the end, a Communist — and a Jew — Binyamin Gonen, was agreed upon as the person to head the list.

The remaining places will be divided among the Progressives and the Arab Democratic Party.

The joint venture could have a significant effect on Israeli politics if the combined party does well in the Histadrut elections.

The Israeli Arab constituency has a potential of 12 to 15 Knesset seats.

So far they have never realized it because of political friction within the Arab community.

If the three parties remain united for the next Knesset elections, they may gain wide support among Israeli Arabs who are frustrated over their inability to extend help to their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

With Arab support, a new Communist-Arab coalition could easily become the third largest political faction in Israel, after Labor and Likud, and could replace the religious parties as the power brokers in coalition politics.

Whereas the religious parties always maneuver between Labor and Likud, the Arab force would align only with Labor.

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