How Did the Arabs and Druze Vote in the Election?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  Dr. Edy Cohen

The voting patterns in Israel's recent election were dramatic in terms of the local minorities, especially Arabs and Druze.

The Druze, who in previous elections voted mostly for right-wing parties, this time gave 55 percent of their votes to the centrist "Blue and White" faction. Few voted for Likud or parties further to the right, the reason being their disappointment with the recently-passed Nation-State Law that the Druze view as discriminatory against their community. While the law in fact does not discriminate against any minorities, misinformation regarding the legislation was effectively leveraged by opposition parties to move the Druze vote away from Likud.

Also notable is that in this election we saw the first female Druze candidate elected to the Knesset. Mrs. Ghadir Kamal is 25th on the list of Blue and White, which won 35 seats.

It should be noted that the Druze do not typically have political aspirations, and do not identify with the Palestinians in their struggle for national liberation, nor do the Druze in Israel, Syria or Lebanon seek a state of their own. In Israel, they are viewed as loyal citizens, and are, by their own request, required to serve in the army alongside the state's Jewish citizens.

Among the Arab population, 14 percent fewer citizens voted this year than in the previous election. Just 50 percent of the Arab sector came out to the polls. Interestingly, of those who did vote, a sizable portion (123,000 Arab citizens) voted for non-Arab parties, such as the far-left Meretz party, which received 40,000 Arab votes.

The low Arab voter turnout was expected, prompting concern among the Arab parties, which blamed the aforementioned Nation-State Law for creating "despair" in the Arab community.

The reality is that the low Arab voter turnout had more to do with the strained relations between the Arab parties and their natural constituents. Many Arab voters harshly criticized the Arab parties for being excessively preoccupied with the Palestinian cause, and therefore not acting as effective representatives of the Israeli Arab population. For example, many Arabs wondered why Arab MK Bassel Ghattas schemed to smuggle cellphones to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, instead of addressing infrastructure, job creation, education and crime in the local Arab villages–issues that the voters actually care about.

Given this, many Arab voters in Israel feel they simply have no true representation in Knesset, not from the Zionist Jewish parties and not from the Arab parties that prefer to identify as part of the "Palestinian struggle."

The truth is that many of the Arab representatives in Knesset are more concerned about gaining fame in the wider Arab world than with working for the average Israeli Arab citizen. And the best way to do that is to routinely "resist" and attack the Jewish state, at the expense of its Arab citizens. A number of these Arab MKs have successfully achieved "hero" status in the Middle East, even as their Israeli Arab constituents are wholly dissatisfied with their political activity.

Even so, the Arabs of Israel remain the only Arab community in the Middle East that is capable of truly influencing the make-up of the nation's government with their votes. By contrast, public opinion in neighboring dictatorships holds little sway over government decisions. While they might be unhappy with their current representation, the Arabs here know that the State of Israel remains for them and all other minorities a paradise of democracy in the Middle East.

PHOTO: Roy Alima/Flash90

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