Arab vote seen rising sharply in Israel's election

Election ballot boxes photo: Shutterstock

A survey by the University of Maryland finds that 73.5% of Israel's Arabs intend to vote in the April 9 election, with Benny Gantz the main beneficiary.

A new survey by the University of Maryland among minority populations in Israel shows that nearly three-quarters of Israel's Arab citizens support the idea of two Arab parties (Hadash-Taal and Ra'am-Balad) joining the coalition that makes up the next government in Israel if the opportunity arises. The survey, reported in "The Washington Post", also indicates an upward trend in the proportion of Arabs who intend to vote, perhaps an ironic response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's appeal to his supporters in the 2015 election to go out to vote because "the Arabs are streaming to the polls in droves."

The telephone survey, supervised by Prof. Shibley Telhami of the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, was carried out in Israel between the 10th and 12th of March through local firm Statnet, based in Daliyat al-Karmil in northern Israel, among 713 Arab Israeli citizens. The survey was conducted in Arabic. The sampling error is put at 3.9%.

Asked whether Israeli Arabs should participate in the April 9 election after the legislation of the Basic Law: The Nation State, which defines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, 77.5% responded that it was preferable to vote. Only 17.5% replied in the negative. Asked whether they themselves planned to vote, 73.5% responded positively and 23.4% negatively.

In 2015, the turnout among Israeli Arabs was 63.5%, and in 2013 it was a little under 55%. Thus, if the survey's projections are realized, there will be a 10% rise within four years in the proportion of Israeli Arabs voting in a general election, and an 18% rise in six years.

In an article on the Monkey Cage website, publishes articles on political science and is sponsored by "The Washington Post", Prof. Telhami says that the declaration by the centrist Blue and White party that it would not enter into a coalition with Arab parties had aroused anger among many Arab citizens.

Nevertheless, many of them believe that this is an election stance. 54.1% of those surveyed believe that that there is a chance that Arab parties will join the governing coalition after the election. If such a door does open, almost three-quarters of Israeli Arabs - 73.1% - will support the idea of Arab parties joining the coalition. Only 21.1% of Israeli Arabs oppose the idea.

How will Israel's Arabs vote on April 9? According to the survey, two Arab parties now running separately will receive fewer votes than they did when they ran jointly in 2015: 63% of the Arab vote now, compared with 82% in 2015. The remaining votes will go to the center and left parties: Blue and White (15%); Meretz (10%); and Labor (1%). Despite Netanyahu's statement last time around, 4% of Israel's Arabs plan to vote for his Likud party, while 2% will vote for Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu.

Prof. Telhami says that one reason for the political awakening of Israel's Arabs is anger at the prime minister's statements and actions, from his policies towards West Bank Palestinians to what are seen as his efforts to delegitimize Israel's Arab citizens. The beneficiary will be Benny Gantz. As mentioned, his Blue and White party will, according to the survey, receive 15% of the Israeli Arab vote. Among the Druze population, Blue and White's projected share of the vote is much higher: 54% of Druze voters will vote for Blue and White, and only 10% for Likud, which has traditionally had high support among the Druze.

Telhami says that Israeli Arabs have realized that only they can help themselves. They look around at the Arab world, at the West Bank and Gaza, at President Trump's foreign policy, and understand that no salvation will come from there, and they have to play with the few cards that they hold.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 24, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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Election ballot boxes photo: Shutterstock
Election ballot boxes photo: Shutterstock
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