Opinion |

Lapid’s Problem With Arabs

חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli
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United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas speaking with then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset in October 2021.
United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas speaking with then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset in October 2021.Credit: Noam Moskowitz/Knesset
חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli

Raviv Drucker wrote a beautiful, touching story in Haaretz on Monday. The hero of the story is Yair Lapid, who “when [he] was still foreign minister, United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas took the Yesh Atid leader on a visit to a Bedouin community in the south. The situation here is terrible, Lapid told Abbas during that visit, and the fact that an unrecognized village in today’s Israel is still not connected to the power grid and to a regulated water supply is awful. Yes, replied Abbas, but this is a recognized village.”

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Nice gesture, no? But then we learn why Raviv is mentioning the visit. “It is hard to overstate the concern felt by Lapid and his partners to the "Anyone But Bibi" coalition over the voting rates in Arab society,” he writes. In other words, all this excitement is meant to make the point: You ungrateful Arabs, why don’t you go vote in droves, when Lapid came on a tour with Abbas!

Here is the answer: Lapid disqualifies the Joint List, an important representative of Arab society; he places no Arab members in his own list, doesn’t treat the Arab citizens as a target audience. Lapid is interested in Arab votes, but is not interested in Arabs as real partners. He wants them to go out and vote, but with no true return. Come on, do the camp a favor.

Lapid is not alone. He’s in good company with the center-left parties that exploit Arab votes and then throw them to the dogs. And they all have the same excuse – Itamar Ben Gvir. (Drucker: “If they don’t start investing most of their efforts into instilling hope among Arab voters that this time it really will be different, Itamar Ben-Gvir will become part of the security cabinet come mid-December.”) Sometimes I think, what would the center-left do without Ben Gvir? He is their true hero.

The simple truth is that while the right joins forces with people like Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, Lapid and the Anyone-But-Bibi coalition are not interested in a coalition with Arabs, or one that relies on Arabs. Even Meirav Cohen of Yesh Atid, who more than once boasted (in a rather Orientalist manner) that she is “the minister of Arabs,” said on Israel Hayom’s podcast that Yesh Atid will not form a coalition with the Joint List or parts thereof. “Not even outside support. We don’t want them to be the six votes that put us over, in any way. … Don’t want to depend on the Joint List.”

The treatment of the Joint List as illegitimate political lepers indicates the attitude toward large swaths of Arab society. The attempt to argue that the members of the Joint List do not represent the public is an attempt to “divide and conquer.” The Joint List represents hundreds of thousands of people, and disqualifying it means disqualifying hundreds of thousands of citizens as well.

But that’s the problem with the Zionist left. Drucker believes Lapid has to sell the Arab public false hope two months ahead of the elections, and Uri Misgav misses no opportunity to blame the Arabs for the failure of his own camp and the triumph of the right. In their condescension, they think Arabs don’t understand the political reality, but we understand only too well: Lapid and his friends will also continue with the nation-state law, with supporting the settlements, with Judaizing the Galilee, with extending the Judea and Samaria regulations and so on. But it’s true – you won’t have Ben Gvir. You’ll have only nice folks, who do more or less the same thing.

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