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Expert Predicts Formation of an Arab Political Party

May 18, 1984
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An expert on Arab affairs predicted yesterday that Israeli Arabs, seeking a channel for political expression, may soon form their own independent Arab political party. Given Israel’s Arab population of close to 600,000, it would have the potential to win 12 Knesset seats, according to Avner Regev of the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Research.

Regev discussed his two year study of Arab involvement in municipal elections at a symposium here. He said Arabs could achieve their political goals in two ways — through the National Committee of Arab Mayors or by the development of an Arab party to participate in local and national elections.

He said this would be the outcome of a situation in which Arabs feel frustrated because they are unable to integrate into the existing framework of the political system. Israeli Arabs are disenchanted with the existing parties which court Arab votes, mainly the Communist Party which is currently strong among the Arab electorate and the Labor Party. The Labor Party’s Central Committee, however, yesterday approved a July 23 election list that contains but one safe seat for an Arab candidate.


Regev’s thesis was challenged at the symposium by Mayor Mohammad Abu-Assbe of the Arab village of Jatt, a member of Mapam which is a partner in the Labor Alignment.

He contended that Israeli Arabs could achieve more by working inside the existing political parties than on their own. He warned that an independent Arab party would be isolated by the Jewish political system, just as the Communist Party is isolated although it holds four Knesset seats.

Binyamin Gur-Arye, the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Arab Affairs, also warned that an independent Arab party would further alienate the Jewish population from Israel’s Arabs.

But an independent Arab party may be in the making. Arab radicals who split from the pro-Moscow Hadash (Communist) Party, have reached an agreement in principle with Israeli lettists, formerly of the Sheli Party, on a joint list in the upcoming elections. It will be headed by Mohammad Miari of Haifa, a lawyer and Arab nationalist. The No. 2 man will be Gen. (Res.) Matityahu Peled, formerly of Sheli.

Nazareth lawyer Kamel Doher, a member of the new group, told the symposium that it offered Israeli Arabs the only way to achieve recognition as a national minority with “more than just equal rights.”

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