Balad Mulls Leaving Joint List for Solo Run in November 1 Election

Party could bolt Joint List, eyes prominent Arab figures and a Jewish candidate for its Knesset slate

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Balad Chairman Sami Abu Shehadeh in February
Balad Chairman Sami Abu Shehadeh in FebruaryCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The Balad party is considering quitting the Joint List electoral alliance of predominantly Arab parties and running independently in the general election scheduled for November 1, party chair Sami Abu Shehadeh said Wednesday.

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Representatives from the Joint List’s three component parties – Hadash, Balad and Ta’al – were supposed to meet in Nazareth on Wednesday, but Balad’s representatives never showed up.

In addition to trying to get prominent Arab public figures to join its slate of would-be Knesset members, Balad is considering placing a Jewish candidate in one of the top four slots. No final decision has been made regarding that issue.

Hadash recently warned Balad and Ta’al that it doesn’t intend to drag out negotiations on the joint ticket’s composition to the deadline for submitting all party slates. Hadash would like to have the issue settled by the end of the month.

“We won’t allow a situation in which everyone is on edge until September 15,” one senior Hadash official said, referring to the final deadline. “We want to preserve the Joint List, but we also want to complete the negotiations by the end of the month, because then if we don’t reach agreements, we’ll have the possibility of exploring other options.”

A United Arab List campaign poster, this monthCredit: Ahmad Gharabli - AFP

Ta’al, for its part, has so far remained vague about its intentions.

Officials in Balad, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the party will run independently if it manages to put together a slate that includes mayors of Arab communities, prominent Arab civil-society activists, a candidate from the Negev and a Jewish candidate. Some sources in the party, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they believed that this could attract more young voters and encourage many who might otherwise stay home to go out and vote.

But other sources in Balad said that running independently would be a last resort, given the risk that the party would fail to cross the electoral threshold – currently set at 3.25 percent of all votes – and lose all representation in the legislature.

Balad officials said that if the party does decide to remain in the Joint List, they will demand that Hadash and Ta’al agree to clearer policy guidelines for the ticket. Among other things, Balad is demanding that all of the Joint List’s constituent parties promise not to recommend anyone for prime minister after the election and that the boundaries of negotiations with other parties on political and foreign-policy issues – the latter usually refers to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – be defined in advance.

Only after agreements are reached on these issues will Balad agree to discuss how many candidates from each party the joint ticket should have and how they should be ranked on the slate, Abu Shehadeh said.

In coming days, Balad plans to conduct in-depth surveys about the mood in the Arab community and how potential voters are leaning. A senior party official said that among other things, the poll would seek to determine whether running independently would increase or decrease voter turnout in the Arab community. Existing surveys are currently predicting that Arab voter turnout will be low.

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