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Israel’s third-largest party is left out of governing scenarios — because it’s Palestinian

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The Israeli election is two weeks away, and a poll out today shows that the two biggest parties, Likud and Blue-and-White, are running neck in neck, at 32 and 31 parliamentary seats, both well short of a majority.

Everyone talks about the fourth-largest party as the kingmaker: Former Defense Minister and bouncer Avigdor Lieberman’s party polls at 9 or 10 seats. The rightwing settler wants to cobble together a “unity government” of the two top parties and his.

What about the third largest party in the polling? That’s the Joint List of Arab parties, now polling at 10 or 11 seats. You’d think they’d be in great demand.

But no one is talking about coalition building with the Palestinian parties because they’re not Zionist Jewish; and Israeli governments are Jewish and Zionist.

So Benjamin Netanyahu can make deals with messianic extremists and other rightwing anti-Arab racists, trying to squeeze out an extra three rightwing seats. And insiders can speculate about Labor joining Netanyahu to the point that the Labor leader shaves his mustache off in an ad to make a credible denial. And Netanyahu can try to paint Lieberman as a “leftist” to rally his voters on the religious right.

But the third largest party in Israel counts for nothing.

You’d think that– if Israel is a democracy—  the Palestinians would be highly-sought-after. As highly sought-after as black and brown voters have been to the Democratic Party in the U.S. since the 60’s.

Anyone with the fantasy of seeing a center-left Israeli government needs those Palestinian voters. Add up all the Zionist/Jewish seats on the center-left (31 for Blue and White, 7 for Labor/Gesher, and 7 for the new Democratic Union Party of Barak/Meretz/Shaffir (and yes, one of those parliamentarians is Palestinian)), and you only get to 45, well short of a majority.

Throw in the 10 or 11 Joint List seats and you get to spitting distance of a majority. Right where Netanyahu and the right are now.

In fact, in the 1990s Israel Labor governments under Rabin and Barak depended on the passive support of Palestinian parliamentarians, to guarantee them five votes in crunch time inside a closely-divided parliament.

Today some of the Palestinian parties are said to be willing to play such a role again. Ayman Odeh has said he could imagine joining a Blue and White coalition. And Ahmad Tibi said today that he is open to participating in a “blocking” coalition to allow Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to become PM if Gantz promises higher status to the Palestinian community.

But the Israeli centrist parties don’t want anything to do with Palestinians. Benny Gantz rejected Odeh’s “historic” overture.

“We will not invite a party that does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” [Blue and White leader Gabi] Ashkenazi told Army Radio.

Likud and Blue-and-White were deadlocked after the April election, but Benny Gantz never even called the Joint List “to ask for its recommendation” to the Israeli president President Reuven Rivlin about forming the next government. Palestinian parliamentarian Yousef Jabareen said that’s “because of racism in Blue and White.”

The polling shows that Palestinian voters are open to these parties participating in a government (68-12), but Jewish voters are overwhelmingly against it (60-9).

Labor leaders have been just as resistant as Blue and White to appealing to Palestinian voters because the mood of the Israeli public is so anti-Palestinian. FP:

[Former] Labor leader Avi Gabbay said in an interview in 2017: “We will not sit with them, unequivocally. … I do not see anything that connects us to them [the Arab political parties] or allows us to be in the same government with them.” Former Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog said in 2016 that the center was taking away votes from the Labor Party because he claimed to hear, “in endless encounters with the Israeli public that we are always Arab lovers.”…

The Palestinian parties and mainstream Jewish parties don’t get along for the simple reason that the Jewish parties are all Zionist (with some softening on the Meretz left, which includes Muslim candidates), while Palestinians are generally anti-Zionist. And no wonder: Zionism has been a bad deal for Palestinians from its beginnings.

The Palestinian alienation from the Jewish political process has gotten worse in recent years, as Israeli politics have swung further and further right. Last year Israel passed a basic law proclaiming Israel the “nation state of the Jewish people,” that Palestinians see as a frank declaration of apartheid: Jews have the “exclusive” right to self-determination in the biblical land of Israel, and Jews have higher land rights and language rights than Palestinians.

Blue and White has been running to the right in this election, supporting illegal Israeli settlements and not coming out for a Palestinian state.

Some on the Israeli left continue to imagine a coalition of Palestinian and Jewish voters to break open the rightwing stranglehold. Earlier this year, Mikhael Manekhin and Ameer Fakhoury reissued the challenge to the Israeli left and Palestinian to work together to build a new society.

What does it mean to be a liberal or progressive in Israel today? Not only do we need to call for ending the occupation within a framework of two states, but we must also address the fundamental political inequalities of the Arab minority in Israel. The Jewish left and the Arab Palestinian parties in Israel must be able to seek a more common political and ideological ground; otherwise Netanyahu’s claim of Arab citizens as a political threat to the Jewish state will remain without an ideological and political alternative.

That dream remains more distant than ever. Jabareen said today:

“It is a fallacy that joining a Zionist party will bring real change,” he said. “We are not busy tailoring our suits. We will be in the opposition.”

And Peace Now’s Yossi Alpher said today, the likely outcome of the election is a unity coalition.

The only mathematically-possible coalition at this point appears to be one that involves both [Likud and Blue and White]. Liberman’s ten mandates give him leverage in this regard.

Palestinians will be completely left out from that government, like virtually every government before that.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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17 Responses

  1. eljay on September 3, 2019, 2:00 pm

    “We will not invite a party that does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” [Blue and White leader Gabi] Ashkenazi told Army Radio.

    The victims must call the rapist ‘Master’.

    • Misterioso on September 4, 2019, 3:11 pm

      @eljay, et al

      Heads up!!

      “Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Sept. 4/19

      “It’s just been announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in London tomorrow (Thursday 5th September) to meet with Boris Johnson.

      “Join the protest outside Downing Street: 13.00 – 14.30

      “Let’s get out on the streets to make it clear that we stand unequivocally with the people of Palestine and against Israel’s continued violations of international law and human rights.

      “Join us in sending a clear message that Netanyahu is not welcome here!


      • Mooser on September 4, 2019, 5:22 pm

        By Thursday Boris Johnson may not be welcome in London.

        But why is Natayahoo going to London? To assure England that Israeli financial genius will save England from the consequences of Brexit?

      • Bumblebye on September 4, 2019, 8:48 pm

        Mooser, i wondered if it had anything to do with the international arms fair that’s on at the moment, plus maybe that israel has lined itself up to sign one of the first post-brexit trade deals. Or even to offer the services of mossad in dealing with a certain political enemy?

  2. Citizen on September 3, 2019, 4:52 pm

    US politicians and main media pundits will continue to call Israel “the only democracy in the middle east.” Can’t form a coalition? Most Americans will remain oblivious–coalition? What’s that?

  3. ShaolinMonkTLV on September 3, 2019, 6:06 pm

    Once again Phil Weiss proves how little he understands about anything. If the “Joint List” is a “Palestinian Party” why on earth would they be allowed to be in a ruling coalition in The State of ISRAEL? Where on earth would such an imbecilic proposition even be considered? Forget about the Arab world where there is no democracy or no Jews; how many French Parties are there in the British Parliament? How many Germany Parties are there in Spain? If you don’t recognize that according to fact and international law that the State of ISRAEL is the State of ISRAEL and that it is the nation state of the Jewish people then you’re not going to sit in the governing coalition. We here in Israel are not going to commit national suicide so Weiss and his ilk can feel good about themselves in their social circles wherever they live. If the “Arab Joint List” doesn’t like it they can move to Gaza or any of the 22 self proclaimed Arab states. Nobody is stopping them. And that’s not “ethnic cleaning” it’s just the way it goes unless you think Jews moving out of neighborhoods like Brownsville when there was a mass migration of blacks from the South was ethnic cleaning too.

    • eljay on September 3, 2019, 7:06 pm

      || ShaolinMonkTLV: … the State of ISRAEL is the State of ISRAEL and that it is the nation state of the Jewish people … ||

      Speaking of how little people understand about anything:

      The State of ISRAEL is the State of ISRAEL and just as…
      – France is the nation state of the French;
      – Britain the nation state of the British;
      – Germany the nation state of the Germans; and
      – Spain is the nation state of the Spanish,
      …so ISRAEL should be the nation state of all ISRAELIS.

      Unfortunately – and thanks to the hatefulness, immorality and hypocrisy of Zionists – ISRAEL remains a colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist state.

    • Bumblebye on September 3, 2019, 9:46 pm

      The land is Palestine, the State is Israel. The Palestinians are indigenous to the land. That includes those who were Palestinian Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israelis are invading interlopers attempting to recreate a mythic bronze age nonsense – and the State has decreed that ‘israelis’ don’t exist! The only recognised ‘nationality’ is Jewish – all non-Jews are in the subcategory of ‘citizen’, some 120 types with many fewer rights.

      You advertise yourself as coming here to argue about the ‘bullshit’ posted by ‘idiots’. Every word of your absurd argument falls in the first category and if you look in the mirror you’ll see the second.

    • Marnie on September 4, 2019, 5:29 am


      ‘We here in Israel are not going to commit national suicide’ blah, blah, blah. Have heard that one a lot and it keeps getting funnier every time I hear it. The truth is, you’ve been commiting national suicide for decades. You’ve killed your standing in the civilized world by acting like bloodthirsty monsters 24/7. You’re abusing your children by putting hatred and xenophobia in the air they breathe, the milk they suckle and the water they drink. You’re giving them a false identity as well as a false sense of pride and superiority that they will come to hate you for when they learn the truth. If you loved your children and raised them to be good humans instead of training them to be beasts that kill and monsters that hate, what a wonderful world this could be.

      • Misterioso on September 4, 2019, 10:44 am


        Excellent comment. Brava!

        Panic and fear are enveloping the Zionist camp. Americans are waking up.

    • Misterioso on September 4, 2019, 10:36 am


      In fact, there is no “State of ISRAEL.” “Israel” is neither a state nor a country, i.e., it has yet to officially declare its borders and have them agreed to as such by the international community. The entity known as “Israel” (i.e., west of the green line) is however, racist, expansionist, an illegal/brutal occupier of Palestinian lands* as well as Syria’s Golan Heights and Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms and since its inception, it has been governed under apartheid.

      To wit:
      Hendrik Verwoerd, then prime minister of South Africa and the architect of South Africa’s apartheid policies, 1961: “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” (Rand Daily Mail, November 23, 1961)

      Jacobus Johannes Fouché, South African Minister of Defence during the apartheid era, compared the two states and said that Israel also practiced apartheid. (Gideon Shimoni (1980). Jews and Zionism: The South African Experience 1910-1967. Cape Town: Oxford UP. pp. 310–336. ISBN 0195701798.

      “Former Foreign Ministry director-general invokes South Africa comparisons. ‘Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”
      EXCERPT: “Similarities between the ‘original apartheid’ as it was practiced in South Africa and the situation in ISRAEL [my emphasis] and the West Bank today ‘scream to the heavens,’ added [Alon] Liel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria from 1992 to 1994. There can be little doubt that the suffering of Palestinians is not less intense than that of blacks during apartheid-era South Africa, he asserted.” (Times of Israel, February 21, 2013)

      Video: Israeli TV Host Implores Israelis: Wake Up and Smell the Apartheid

      In its 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, issued in 2016,the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor acknowledges the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.” (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)

      “Construction, Not Destruction”
      “While Israeli Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population, Arab communities’ jurisdictions occupy just 2.5 percent of the state’s land area, and the process of approving new construction in Arab towns takes decades.” (Haaretz Editorial, April 4, 2017)

      One example of apartheid within Israel:
      “Jewish town won’t let Arab build home on his own land ”
      Excerpt: “Aadel Suad first came to the planning and construction committee of the Misgav Local Council in 1997. Suad, an educator, was seeking a construction permit to build a home on a plot of land he owns in the community of Mitzpeh Kamon. The reply he got, from a senior official on the committee, was a memorable one. ‘Don’t waste your time,’ he reportedly told Suad. ‘We’ll keep you waiting for 30 years.’” (Haaretz, 14 December 2009)

      Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the struggle against the former South African apartheid regime, minister for intelligence and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

      Shlomo Gazit, retired IDF Major General: “[Israel’s] legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.” (Haaretz, July 19, 2011)

      Israel is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality, i.e., “Israeli” nationality does not exist, only Jews and non-Jews, and each citizen carries an appropriate identity card. While the implications of this absurdity for discrimination and racism against non-Jews are obvious, it has been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court.

      The effect of Israel’s blatantly racist “Citizenship Law” and more than fifty other restrictions Arab citizens have to endure is well expressed by writer and Knesset member, Ahmed Tibi, “…dutifully defining the state [of Israel] as ‘Jewish and democratic,’ ignores the fact that in practice ‘democratic’ refers to Jews, and the Arabs are nothing more than citizens without citizenship.” (Ma’ariv, 1.6.2005)

      More ugly reality:
      Jan 19, 2018 – Haaretz
      Opinion: “In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism” by Zeev Sternhell.**
      “I frequently ask myself how a historian in 50 or 100 years will interpret our period. When, he will ask, did people in Israel start to realize that the state that was established in the War of Independence, on the ruins of European Jewry and at the cost of the blood of combatants some of whom were Holocaust survivors, had devolved into a true monstrosity for its non-Jewish inhabitants. When did some Israelis understand that their cruelty and ability to bully others, Palestinians or Africans, began eroding the moral legitimacy of their existence as a sovereign entity?”

      Opinion “Israel’s Suicidal Passion for Tribal Nationalism”
      “The fate of the Jews has been tied to the fate of liberal values, and yet the levels of racist tribal nationalism reached here are incomparable, even to those of the chauvinists in the West we increasingly treat as allies.” Nov 16, 2018, Haaretz – By Zeev Sternhell

      ** Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world’s leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

      *Eminent Jewish Israeli journalist Bradley Burston aptly sums up the horrors Israel inflicts on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem:
      “Occupation is Slavery”
      “In the name of occupation, generation after generation of Palestinians have been treated as property. They can be moved at will, shackled at will, tortured at will, have their families separated at will. They can be denied the right to vote, to own property, to meet or speak to family and friends. They can be hounded or even shot dead by their masters, who claim their position by biblical right, and also use them to build and work on the plantations the toilers cannot themselves ever hope to own. The masters dehumanize them, call them by the names of beasts.” (Haaretz, Feb. 26/13)

      • mondonut on September 4, 2019, 12:45 pm

        @Misterioso, In fact, there is no “State of ISRAEL.” “Israel” is neither a state nor a country, i.e., it has yet to officially declare its borders and have them agreed to as such by the international community.

        Israel is a state, a sovereign state and a country. Israel has declared borders with each and every adjacent country – which like all national borders are not subject to the agreement of the international community, rather they are either agreed to or disputed by the adjacent parties.

    • bcg on September 4, 2019, 11:19 am

      @ShaolinMonkLTV: Good lord, everyone on the Joint List is an Israeli citizen, 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. They have equal rights, don’t they?

      • Misterioso on September 4, 2019, 3:03 pm


        Nonsense! the entity known as “Israel” is illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands and despite agreeing to comply with UNSC Resolution 242, has illegally annexed the Golan Heights and after illegally occupying Jerusalem, “Israel” has also declared it as its capital and is currently planning to annex the entire West Bank. As “Israel” sees its borders, they must be continuously expanded as declared by the early Zionists.** The international community does not agree. In a just world, “Israel” would have been expelled from the U.N. years ago.

        **Theodor Herzl’s diaries not only confirm that his objective was the establishment of a “Jewish state” in Palestine, but that it would be an expansionist state. In the year of his death, 1904, he described its borders as being “…in the north the mountains facing Cappadocia [Turkey], in the south, the Suez Canal [Egypt] in the east, the Euphrates [Iraq].” (Theodor Herzl, The Complete Diaries, 11 p. 711)

        In 1918, Polish born David Ben-Gurion (real name David Gruen) described the future borders of the Jewish state as: “to the north, the Litani River; to the northeast, the Wadi’Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into the Sinai at least up to Wadi al-`Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” (Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs)

      • mondonut on September 4, 2019, 4:04 pm

        @Misterioso, Nonsense! the entity known as “Israel” is illegally occupying…

        Another off topic reply having nothing to do with my comment. Are you calling nonsense to the fact that Israel has declared borders with each and every adjacent country?

  4. Tonja on September 4, 2019, 11:25 am

    “We here in Israel are not going to commit national suicide” blah, blah, blah.

    What is wrong with national suicide ????
    Even the israeli UN Ambassador says it’s ok… more than ok actually he says it’s a necessity…

    ooops i forgot… palestinians are less than human for zionists but god forbids a strong figthing jew to surrender…
    practice target, cheap labor, slave.. amazing how useful the palestinians can be

  5. Vera Gottlieb on September 4, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Only democracy in the Middle East? How much longer are we going to be fed this fairy tale?

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