The leaders of the Joint Arab List can rest easy after going through a tough election campaign. They won 13 seats, two more than the 11 they won back in April. In numbers, this means that 130,000 more Arabs voted this time around compared to the previous election.
There are many other reasons that so many Arab Israeli voters were “convinced” to come out and cast a ballot. First is the adversarial relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, who exploited Netanyahu’s flailing popularity among large segments of Israeli society.
When Netanyahu demanded that security cameras be placed at polling stations in Arab towns to combat voter fraud, he was bombarded with charges of racism. Much of the public was offended by Netanyahu’s repeated warnings that “the Arabs will steal our election.” This stirred even more Arab citizens to come out and vote in protest against Netanyahu, and not necessarily to identify with the Joint List.
Some of the extreme left-wing parties in Israel returned fire by hiring dozens of buses to bring thousands of Bedouins and Arabs to the voting stations. Even though the Chairman of the Election Committee, Justice Hanan Meltzer, issued an order preventing them from doing so on the grounds that it was a blatant intervention in the election, thousands of Arabs exercised their electoral right with the assistance of radical leftist organizations.
The third factor that increased the Arab vote was the recommendation of the Palestinian Authority in the days just before the election. The Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas posted messages on their Facebook pages calling for Israeli Arabs to come out and help topple Netanyahu. The movement urged the Arab public to increase voter turnout as a countermeasure to the right-wing parties in Israel. Posters were published with sayings like, “Get out and vote because Netanyahu is a danger to the Arabs in Israel and the right-wing parties threaten to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.”
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a recognized terrorist organization, also called on Israeli Arabs to come out and vote in droves for the Joint List, claiming that they represent all the Arabs, including the Palestinians.
It should be noted that at the beginning of the election campaign, unknown but most likely Jewish elements published calls encouraging Israeli Arabs to boycott the election. That effort backfired, as the election results clearly show. The Arab public remembers well Netanyahu’s urgent warning in the closing hours of the 2015 election, when he told his base that “the Arabs are flocking to the polls,” thus increasing his own voter turnout.
Whatever the reasons, one can certainly conclude that Arabs living in the State of Israel are the only ones in the Middle East who get to vote in a truly democratic process with real influence on the decision-making process and the make-up of the parliament. In Arab countries, there is either no election, or else a fake one where the sitting leader gets 99 percent of the vote.