by Ariel Ben Solomon
Do Arab MKs represent the interests of their constituents?
Arab-Israelis maintain their MKs, like Jamal Zahalka (center) are more interested in grandstanding than standing up for them (Photo: Flash90)
Less than two years after Arab parties won a record number of seats and unified their parliamentary forces, more than half — 55% — of Arab-Israelis say they are deeply frustrated by their MKs, calling them ineffective and radicalized, according to a new Statnet research institute poll.
Only 13% of poll respondents said they were very happy with the Arab parties while another 32% said they were moderately pleased. If elections were held today, the poll found that the Joint Arab List would drop from its current 13 seats to around 11.
The Statnet poll, commissioned by Israel’s Channel 10, and shared with Mishpacha by Statnet CEO Yousef Makladeh, was yet another sign that Arab Israelis are more interested in bread-and-butter economic and social issues than Palestinian nationalism. “People are disappointed with the Joint List,” he said.
The survey results come one year after a new electoral threshold of 3.25 % brought together several previously independent Arab parties into one bloc called the Joint List. The four parties on the List —the Islamist United Arab List, Ta’al, the mostly Arab Hadash, and the nationalist Balad — differ in ideological outlook. There is fierce competition for influence among the various party leaders.
Makladeh said the poll results indicate that Arab Israelis are more “mainstream and pragmatic” than in the past. For instance, the poll found that the most popular Arab politician, Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi, is perceived by Arabs as less focused on the larger Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “The economic situation in the Arab sector is poor, and unemployment is high,” said Makladeh. “The average Arab-Israeli cares more about real-life issues than he does about the big conflict.”
Yousef Makladeh: “The economic situation in the Arab sector is poor, and unemployment is high. Average Arab-Israelis care more about real-life issues than about the big conflict”
Still, from the Jewish public’s view, Tibi’s views are anything but mainstream. He supports a bi-national state, the full return of Palestinian refugees from 1948, and a boycott of Israeli companies. Recently, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s majority coalition said it would boycott the Joint List over its members’ failure to attend the funeral of former president Shimon Peres.
According to the statistics gathered by Makladeh’s company, around 64% of Arabs participated in the 2015 election, but if elections were held today, just 58% would vote. Surprisingly, another 6% would vote for Zionist or Jewish parties such as the left-wing Meretz or the Zionist Union.