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Arab Voting Patterns Indicate a Sharp Rebuff to Labor

July 25, 1984
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Initial analyses of Arab voting patterns in yesterday’s Knesset elections indicate a sharp rebuff to the Labor Alignment which had expected to win over Arabs who traditionally cast their ballots for the Communist ticket.

The Hadash Communists retained their four Knesset mandates. Two mandates went to the recently formed Progressive List for Peace, a coalition of Israeli Arab nationalists and Jewish leftists. It was the Progressives’ first run for parliament and it was they, rather than the Alignment, who won the votes of Arabs disenchanted with the Communist faction.

The Progressive List, which did not exist a few months ago, is now the second largest political force among Israel’s 600,000 Arab citizens. But Likud was the real beneficiary of the Arab vote because it helped reduce Labor’s margin in the next Knesset.


The Arabs miscalculated once again, political analysts said today, just as they did in the 1977 and 1981. elections. Although Israeli Arabs clearly prefer a Labor to a Likud government, they contributed to Likud’s 1977 victory by giving the Communists a record five Knesset seats in order to “punish” the Labor Alignment for alleged neglect of their interests.

In 1981, Labor credited three of its mandates to the Arab vote. But enough Arabs voted Communist to deprive Labor of a meaningful plurality and Likud again headed the government.

In yesterday’s elections, Arab voters apparently took a Labor victory for granted. They were unhappy, however, with the fact that only two Arabs made Labor’s 1984 election list and decided to send the Labor Party a message.

Having over-estimated Labor’s strength with the general electorate, the Arabs contributed to the indecisive results of yesterday’s voting.

But by sending the Progressive List to the Knesset they also created a political phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the State, Israeli Arabs will be represented in parliament by a faction that is nationalist in character — it advocates a Palestinian state — but is in no way linked to Moscow, or, directly, to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Progressive List in fact enjoys considerable public legitimacy. The No. 2 man on its list is Gen. (res.) Matityahu Peled, an outspoken peace advocate who will enter the next Knesset after years in the political wilderness.


However Israelis may feel about the new Arab list, many of them are genuinely frightened by the accession of Rabbi Meir Kahane whose extremist Kach Party won a Knesset seat yesterday.

Kahane, at a press conference today, outlined his “solution to the Arab problem.” He said that on the first day of the new Knesset he would propose a bill to deport all Arabs from Israel, “either peacefully or by transporting them in trucks.” He will also propose, he said, legislation to shift social insurance payments from the State to the Jewish Agency so that only Jews would be entitled to them.

Finally, Kahane promised to propose a bill subjecting every Arab to three years of hard labor. To Kahane’s way of thinking, Zionism and Western democracy are incompatible. He told reporters today that he prefers the Jewish State to democracy.

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