JERUSALEM:Arab politicians are set to make historic gains in the Israeli election, taking more seats than ever before and solidifying their position as the third-largest force in the Knesset, the country’s parliament.
After 99% of the votes were counted, the Joint List alliance, a merger of politicians predominantly representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, had 15 out of 120 Knesset seats.
Boosted by a backlash to racist campaigning by Benjamin Netanyahu, Arab candidates also capitalised on anger towards the prime minister’s ally, Donald Trump. The US president’s recently-released “peace plan” included a highly-controversial clause that could strip some Arab-Israelis of their citizenship.
The country’s approximately 21% Arab minority, mostly descended from Palestinians who remained on their land after Israel’s creation in 1948, broadly support the Palestinian cause and have often boycotted previous elections.
Since the 2015 election, Netanyahu has warned his supporters that the minority could vote en masse to block him from power. Five years later, it appeared they might have succeeded.
In Monday’s vote, Arab turnout surged to 64.7%, according to estimates from the Israel Democracy Institute thinktank.
While no Arab party has ever served in an Israeli governing coalition due to ideological differences, any Joint List gains will serve to dampen Netanyahu’s chances of leading the next government. While his Likud party won the most votes of any faction, Netanyahu’s alliance with ultranationalist and religious allies is still short of two or three seats to secure a clear majority.