The Joint List is dead. Who will lead the fight for Palestinian citizens?
The triumph of Kahanism and the impending return of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister have, quite rightly, dominated headlines in the wake of Israel’s dramatic general election last Tuesday. With a solid majority of 64 Knesset seats, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, which includes the extremist Religious Zionism slate led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, is preparing to embark on an aggressive and radical program of action on both sides of the Green Line, with the incoming premier already receiving warm words of welcome from far-right and authoritarian leaders from India to Hungary to the United States.
On the other side of the political spectrum, an opposing development may prove to be just as pivotal — and no less dangerous. A few weeks before voters headed to the polls, the four Palestinian-led parties in Israel, which had been united under the “Joint List” just two years ago, affirmed that they would be running as three competing slates in this year’s election. Although they attained a combined total of 10 seats — the same as in the previous Knesset — with a 53 percent Arab voter turnout, these figures conceal a deep rupture that now exists between the parties and within the wider Palestinian community in Israel, the effects of which have destroyed a contentious yet vital engine of their politics.
The Islamist Ra’am, which was the first to split from the union in early 2021, has acquired five seats in the next Knesset, a bump up from its previous four. Hadash-Ta’al, a partnership between a communist and liberal party, has also secured five seats, albeit by the skin of its teeth after a last-ditch campaign to mobilize its base in the final days before the polls. The nationalist Balad, which was squeezed out of the remaining alliance with Hadash and Ta’al in September, has fallen just short of the threshold needed to enter the Knesset, despite an impressive campaign to rally votes on its own in less than two months.