Forget Netanyahu – This History-Making Group Is The Real Story In Israel's Elections

An Arab-dominated political alliance makes history in this year’s Knesset elections.

Knesset elections

The Israeli right-wing Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory over the center-left Zionist Union, according to the results released by Israel's Central Elections Committee on Thursday.

The Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in parliament to 24 for the Zionist Union in what is now being termed as a “big win” for Netanyahu.

However, Bibi’s possible fourth term is not the only extraordinary that has come out of the 20th Knesset elections. A newly formed political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties has made history after becoming the third largest force in the Israeli parliament.

Earlier in January, Israel’s Arab minority parties, Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al, signed a unity deal with the far-left Arab-Jewish Hadash party and the Islamic Movement to form “The Joint List” headed by Haifa attorney Ayman Odeh.

Read More: Knesset Elections 2015: Netanyahu Warns of Arab Voters

The party managed to prompt an impressive turnout among Arab-Israelis, almost 70 percent. Even Netanyahu acknowledged that Arabs were coming out to “vote in droves,” which could “endanger the right-wing government.”

“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are bussing them out,” Netanyahu said in a video uploaded to his Facebook page.

Though initially expected to take 12 seats, the Joint List managed to win 14, securing a historic third place in the Knesset.

“These elections were a sort of referendum for the List. The fact that it received a sweeping majority [among the Arab electorate], significantly increasing voter turnout, is a vote of confidence in the List,” Jack Khoury, a political analyst for Nazareth-based A-Shams radio and Haaretz, was quoted by The Times of Israel.

Although it may not be able to affect Israeli policies – for now – the List has still managed to mend some rifts within the Israeli-Arab society, Khoury added.

“The List has calmed things down for Arabs,” he said. “Significant fissures emerged following the municipal elections [in 2013] … but they didn’t affect this election campaign. [An Islamist candidate] like Masoud Ghanaeim could never deliver a speech at a Christian neighborhood in Nazareth on the eve of elections, nor could [secular socialist candidate] Aida Toma Sliman address women in Islamist communities in the Triangle, were it not for the Joint List.”

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Satisfied with their result in the elections, Odeh said the List will not let right-wing parties to form a coalition.

“Our people never break a promise,” he said. “We had an increase in the percentage of votes more than any time in the last 15 years. This is a big achievement for our people. We are the surprise of these elections. We will be the third power in the parliament. With our hands we will prevent the right-wing parties from forming the coming government.”

The List may not have won the top spot but what they have achieved in this year’s elections is undoubtedly a victory in itself.

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