Last week, the Israeli parliament passed a law raising the threshold for parliamentary representation from 2 percent to 3.25 percent of votes in parliamentary elections. In an email interview, Dov Waxman, an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as well as the co-director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Northeastern University, explained what the change means for Arab political parties in Israel.
WPR: What are the main Arab Israeli political parties and their general platforms?
Dov Waxman: There are currently two main Arab parties in Israel: Balad (“nation” in Arabic and the Hebrew acronym of “National Democratic Assembly”), and Ra’am-Ta’al, a union of two parties, Ra’am (the United Arab List) and Ta’al (the Arab Movement for Renewal). Balad espouses secular Arab nationalism, whereas Ra’am-Ta’al is more Islamically oriented. Both parties are ideologically anti-Zionist. They seek full equality for Israel’s Arab citizens, oppose Israel’s definition as a Jewish state and want Israel to become a “state for all its citizens” or a binational state. They support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s full withdrawal from all occupied territories. A third party, Hadash (an acronym for “The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality”), is often regarded as an Arab party, but is historically an Arab-Jewish party. It is an amalgam of various left-wing groups, including the Israeli Communist party. It identifies itself as a non-Zionist party, defends the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens, calls for the recognition of Palestinian Arabs as a national minority within Israel and supports a two-state solution. Hadash is also very focused on social, economic and environmental issues.