When I arrived at the voting station in Nazareth to vote, the line was being held up by an older woman. The slight delay was caused by this woman who was looking for a second paper ballot, which was once used 20 years ago to vote directly for the prime minister in addition to the one for a party. Later she explained that she had not been out to vote for years, but that this time she came to vote for the Joint List so that Bibi doesn’t remain the prime minister.
This in essence is the entire story.
Another round of elections has finished and once again we see that the Arab voice is the one which tips the scale. Just five months ago this happened because the Arab community decided to boycott the elections leading to the fall of the Arab parties, almost a complete erasure of the Balad party and a complete victory for Netanyahu. This time around a higher percentage of the Arab community went out to vote, adding two more mandates and changing the terms of the game.
So what was different this time than last? Simply put — it was an excellent campaign. It was focused and efficient and it was very effective in getting the Arab community to come out and vote in droves.
I am of course referring to the campaign run by Likud.
In Netanyahu’s attempt to get his constituents to come out and vote he tried to play the same card he dealt in 2015 — the Arabs. In the April election when he cautioned that the “Arabs are running to vote” he managed to cause panic among his followers, getting them to come out and vote in high numbers for him.
This time, the prime minister and Likud did not wait until election day. Instead, during most of the campaign, they used the “Arab card” as a means to incentivize their followers with claims of forgery, cameras, a sentence about the Arabs wanting to destroy the country, and again the threat that the Arabs are going out and voting in large numbers.
Only this time, the “Gevalt campaign,” had the opposite results. It became the campaign of “Allah Yustar” for the Arab community. The Joint List knew exactly how to cash in on this.
In the last few weeks, immense pressure has been placed on the Arab streets, a feeling of emergency and fear that if people do not go and vote for the Joint List a disastrous, fatal government will rule against the Arabs with Netanyahu at its helm.
The Likud’s campaign contributed to these messages. This week, the pressure reached a peak and was broadcast in all ways, from social media, telephone calls and announcements in the mosques — cries of this vote being fateful for Israeli Arabs, an emergency of epic proportions — to get out and vote.
And it worked for them.
Despite it all, the voting potential in the Arab community is significantly large. Once again there were mandates from the Arab community that were lost to other parties, but mainly hundreds of thousands remained in their homes in despair and did not go out to vote. They remain fed up with the Joint List and they did not have a single alternative party to vote for. Not one other party turned to the Arab community in order to woo its vote, not one turned to them with solutions to the crucial issues facing the Arab community, no one presented them with representation nor with an embracing discussion of these problems.
At the end of the day, one thing is sure — in the upcoming Knesset there is no possibility of the Joint List being in the government, and for sure Arab members of Knesset will not change who they are. They will continue to deal with everything and every other issue other than us, Israeli Arabs. Truthfully, why should they work hard, when in the end it’s the other parties that bring the Arab community out to vote?
It seems, that Likud’s decision to focus its campaign on the Arabs did not succeed in crowning Netanyahu as the prime minister of the right, but there is a big chance that it is what will place Ayman Odeh in the position of being the chairman of the opposition in the next Knesset.
So here is a scenario that no one saw in the Likud’s campaign but one which is likely to be in reality: The very person who is against military service in the “army of the occupiers” will be addressing us in official state ceremonies on Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers, and the very person who continuously meets with security prisoners (terrorists) will be the one to be meeting with the prime minister for updates on political matters and security issues.