An unprecedented electoral coalition that includes parties representing Israel’s Arab minority and the radical left is on the verge of becoming the third largest political force in Israel. The Joint List -- a diverse set of communists and nationalists from both Jewish and Arab backgrounds who ran on a common platform for the first time -- looks set to win 13 seats in the next Knesset, according to exit polls cited by the Jerusalem Post.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the center-left Zionist Union are virtually deadlocked at around 27 seats each, the exit polls indicate. Netanyahu, however, has already claimed victory.
The Joint List has insisted it is not interested in participating in a potential Zionist Union-led government. The coalition formed, in large part, because the Knesset raised the threshold required to win seats in parliament to 3.25 percent last year. That move sparked fears among smaller far-left and Arab parties they would be unable to earn a sufficient share of the vote on their own.
“It is the only list that goes against racism, fascism and the right wing,” Tareq Awwad, a leftist college student at Tel Aviv University who backs the coalition told Al Jazeera Tuesday. “It calls for equality between Arabs and Jews, and it promotes women’s rights. It stands for peace and democracy.”
The Joint List appeared to benefit from elevated turnout in majority-Arab areas, which the right-wing Likud, in turn, tried to play to its advantage. In a video clip posted to his Facebook page Tuesday, Netanyahu warned: “The rule of the right is in danger. The Arabs are moving in droves to the polling stations.”
Speaking to supporters at a post-election event, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh cheered “a historic moment.” He also vowed to “block Netanyahu from forming the government,” the Times of Israel reported.