For a number of years, Hadash mayors worked constructively with government ministries to improve the economic wellbeing of its residents. The shining example was Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy who helped transform Nazareth into a high-tech hub for Arab workers and entrepreneurs. As a result of these and other efforts, Israeli Arabs had a substantial increase in their family incomes and employment status. Surveys indicate that they believed that their economic wellbeing had increased substantially. In particular, the share of Israeli Arabs who were “very satisfied” with their economic conditions rose from 40 percent during the two-year period 2004-5 to 60 percent during 2010-11.
Over the last few years, a number of Hadash mayors were defeated and it seems that the lesson drawn was that the party was too far out in front of the sentiment of religious and nationalist leaders. As a result, Hadash was drawn into the Arab Joint List with potentially unfortunate consequences.
Polls consistent show that the Arab citizens want the Joint List to emphasize the constructive policies that the Hadash mayors undertook. The Arab populous desires economic and educational advances to continue. They want the Joint List to follow the constructive efforts of Sukkuy. When individuals were unfairly fired for statements made during the Gaza War, every one of the individuals who allowed Sikkuy to bring their cases to the courts won their jobs back. While nationalist rail against the unfair tax formulas that constrain Arab towns, it was Sikkuy, with Injaz, that documented these inequities, forcing the head of the tax ministry to publicly admit that the current funding formula was unfair and should be changed.
These are the efforts that Arab citizens desire; the efforts that will move them forward. However, these are the efforts that would split the Joint List coalition. Its decision to reject being part of the Zionist Union-led government without listing realistic demands indicated it is a protest movement unable to choose the path of constructive engagement. In particular, the reasons given were the presentation of maximalist demands for a Palestinian state, including the elimination of the security barrier.
If it were a constructive party, the Joint List would have made specific demands: elimination of settlements beyond the security barrier and turning over more land to PA control. Most importantly, it would have made demands on the domestic economy: control of the education ministry so that the hirings of Arab teachers could be advanced; a commitment for the tax ministry to change the Arab town funding formula that it admits is unfair. Whether or not this strategy would be successful, this is the approach a responsible political party would pursue and it is the policies the Arab populace desires.
Hadash leader Odeh hopes the Joint List could lead the parliamentary opposition and that its legislators would be able to demand membership in important committees. How realistic is this if Netanyahu’s rightwing coalition is successful. And even if somehow the Zionist Union formed a minority government (which would depend on convincing Kulanu to support it), Hadash would face opposition from within the Joint List coalition. Balad opposed a vote sharing arrangement with Meretz so that it is hard to believe that it would help the Zionist Union block a Netanyahu victory.
The problem, of course, Balad has no interest in constructive engagement; it has no interest in defeating the new more rightwing Netanyahu coalition. Indeed, Balad desires the most rightwing government possible so that it can convince more Israeli Arabs to reject pursuing reforms that will increase their integration into Israeli society. Thus, the tail (Balad) is waving the dog (Hadash) to the detriment of Israeli Arab populace.