The Joint Arab List has decided against announcing its recommendation for forming a government to President Reuven Rivlin at this stage, unless it receives an official request and official negotiations are conducted with all of the list's constituent factions. After an election, the president consults the leaders of the parties in the Knesset before deciding whom to invite to form a government.
An announcement published today in the Arab media states that the views expressed to date by the Blue & White party ignored the Arab public, and that Blue and White must now disavow those views and make a public request to the Joint Arab List. The Joint Arab List said that the ball was now in Blue & White's court. Members of the Joint Arab List confirmed, however, that negotiations were underway on replacing the Knesset speaker and on a bill banning a criminal suspect from forming a government.
In their announcement, the Joint Arab List's leaders promised that they would do all they could to leverage their electoral achievement for the benefit of Arab society, and in order to increase their influence in all areas of politics. Over the three elections held in Israel in the past year, the Joint Arab List has steadily gained more votes, and will now have 15 of the Knesset's 120 seats, making it the third-largest grouping in the Knesset after Likud (36 seats) and Blue & White (33).
The announcement also states that all of the list's constituent factions are united and will not be divided. This part of the announcement refers to calls to three of the list's four factions by Blue & White to support its leader, Benny Gantz. This excludes Balad, which has the most extreme platform of the four factions. Last September, only the three other factions recommended that Gantz should receive a mandate to form a government, with Balad remaining uncommitted. "Globes" reported at the time that this was done at the request of Blue & White, which did not want to appear in need of support from Balad in order to form a government, and also in order to enable Gantz to receive the second opportunity to form a government, after Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
At a meeting of the grouping yesterday in Kfar Kassem, the members discussed the immediate issues, including the election of a Knesset speaker, the recommendation to Rivlin, and the bill banning Netanyahu from forming a government.
At the discussion, the statements and conduct of Blue & White and Gantz during the election campaign, which the Joint Arab List leaders said were influenced by Netanyahu's incitement against the Arab public and the Joint Arab List, were severely criticized. Gantz stated during the campaign that he would not cooperate in any way with the Joint Arab List, while Blue & White MK Yair Lapid said that a government would be formed consisting exclusively of Jewish parties.
The Joint Arab List's announcement stated that the views expressed by Blue & White constituted disrespect for the Arab public, and the list was therefore demanding that he should retract them and hold talks publicly with the Joint Arab List. This is an part of the Joint Arab List's struggle for recognition of the Arab public's legitimacy and its role in changing Israeli government policy towards it.
The four parties in the list say that they have not yet decided what they will recommend to the president, because there is no reason to decide on the matter before they are officially and publicly asked for their recommendation. The list added that it would transparently share its decision with the public in order to prevent spin by rightwing groups aimed at detracting from the list's unity.
Concerning the election of a Knesset speaker and a bill to prevent a person accused of criminal acts from serving as prime minister, it was decided that the Joint Arab List would continue negotiating with the other parties on this matter. It thereby signaled that there was potential in the negotiations, and that it would provide support if it received a quid pro quo. The announcement did not say with whom negotiations were being conducted, indicating that the door was also open to the Likud, which would probably offer a quid pro quo for opposition to the replacement of Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein and to the bill against Netanyahu.
The end of the announcement contains an interesting comment. The list's MKs warn against political revenge consisting of physical attacks against its members, following daily incitement by rightwing figures because of the list's political views. A senior Joint Arab List source told "Globes" that the level of incitement against its members on social networks had escalated substantially following the list's achievement in the elections, that the lives of some of the members had been directly threatened, and that there was real concern that this incitement would culminate in actual violence.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 9, 2020
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