Arab League urges Israeli Arabs to vote

Monday, January 21, 2013 |  Aviel Schneider

The Arab population in Israel has signaled a rather apathetic attitude towards tomorrow's elections. And this is not because of hostility toward the Jewish state, but more toward their own Arab representatives in the Israeli parliament.

"We are desperate. Every time we send our Arab representatives to the Knesset, they only seem to care about the Palestinians (in the disputed territories), but not for the Arab citizens of Israel," Jamal Hadsh from the Arab town of Tamara told the Israeli daily Maariv.

Mussa Abu Lah from the Arab town Shefaram also told the same newspaper that Arab Knesset members do not care about the Arab population of Israel. "Neither Ahmed Tibi nor Haneen Zoabi are interested in us. They only help themselves, not us!" Indifference within the Arab population grows and harms democracy.

Arab voter turnout in Tuesday's election is expected to drop below 50 percent for the first time. Many more Arabs are turning to Jewish parties.

"Like me, many of my friends and relatives refuse to vote for the Arab parties," Mohammed from Seipha told Maariv.

A surprise beneficiary of this trend has been the right-wing Jewish Home party, which under its charismatic new leader, Naftali Bennett, is attracting many new Arab and Druze voters. Druze and Arab supporters held a rally for Jewish Home in northern Israel last week.

To combat this phenomenon, the Arab League on Sunday appealed to Israel's Arabs: "We call on the Arab population to participate in the elections in Israel. Only with a high turnout of Arab voters...can the Arabs hope to curb the racist right-wing government."

The Arab League said it hoped to increase Arab representation in the Knesset from 10 to 20 seats (out of a total 120 seats).

Several sources told Israel Today that it was the current Arab Knesset member who asked the Arab League to put pressure on Israel's Arab population to get out and vote for the Arab parties.

Whether or not the scheme will work is highly doubtful. In conversations with Arabs, it is made clear again and again that they appreciate life in Israel, especially amid the bloody uprisings in neighboring Arab countries.

Pictured: Jews and Arabs ride the Jerusalem light train together.

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