It was with some sadness and a great degree of resignation that I read about the snub the Arab parties have delivered to Isaac Herzog’s efforts to convince them to join him in a coalition should the opportunity arise.
There has never been a coalition government in the history of Israel that has had within it a party with a largely Arab constituency. Their participation in the next government could have been historic. It could also have been a large step towards ensuring that the Arab communities they claim to represent are both more widely heard and receive the greater investment they desire. It could also have been the difference between a government headed by Herzog and Livni rather than by Bibi and Bennett.
The comments made by Member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi imply he would be prepared to support the government from without in exchange for allocation of funds towards Arab Israeli projects. Unfortunately Tibi has dearly overplayed his hand. It will cost both Israeli Arabs and the rest of us. By ruling Arab parties out of any left wing coalition he makes it unlikely that a left wing coalition will be able to form a government at all.
This kind of short sightedness reminds me of Abba Eban’s quip;
The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity
If Tibi had the courage he could end up playing king maker by courageously leading Arab parliamentarians into the Israeli government for the first time. The concessions he could extract for doing so would be far greater than the nothing he is going to get when Netanyahu and Bennett form a right wing coalition and ignore Israeli Arab Members of Knesset altogether. Tibi promising to aid a left wing coalition from the outside both condemns the left wing to failure and ensures that the budget allocations he wants will never come.
Each of the three main Arab parties lack the votes they need to get past the electoral threshold. Unless they unite there will be no Arab representation in the Knesset at all. If they band together and run on a united slate and if they were prepared to join a left wing coalition government there would be a far greater chance that the next government of Israel will be the first government to be truly representative of all Israelis.
Despite the fact that Labour or the “Zionist Camp” is polling as the largest party it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be able to build a coalition. Even if the many contrasting political parties would agree to sit together in government they wouldn’t be able to agree on any legislation. Not least Yair Lapid’s secular Yesh Atid and the fragmented religious Jewish parties.
The same mindset that saw Egypt make peace with Israel while inciting their populace against Israel, that saw Arab countries go to bat for the Palestinians in the international arena while treating the Palestinians living within their own borders like second class citizens, the same mindset which has seen Palestinian leaders blame everything on Israel while throwing away every opportunity to get themselves a state is at work here.
Israel has been criticized for not having a government representing Israeli Arabs, should such criticism be made again it will be clear where the fault lies.