Voter turnout is low and Palestinians divided after Israeli elections | News of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Umm al-Fahm, Israel – Omayya Jabareen spent the morning of the Israeli election preparing the traditional zaatar pastry for breakfast.

Surrounded by family and friends in her home on the winding slopes of Umm al-Fahm – one of the largest Palestinian towns in Israel – the 51-year-old said she doesn’t believe in it. vote in Israeli elections.

“I’ve never voted, and I didn’t vote this time,” she told Al Jazeera from her home earlier in the week, as the country voted in parliamentary elections on Tuesday. “Arab members of the Knesset [the Israeli parliament] merely an aesthetic face for Israeli dominance and racism”.

The problems faced by the majority of 1.8 million Palestinians inside Israel, such as crime and overcrowding, are “the result of systematic policies implemented by the state of Israel,” she said. against us. They will remain as long as it exists.”

Whether for political reasons or just a lack of interest, Jabareen is one of many Palestinians in Israel who have chosen not to vote in this year’s election, which is Israel’s fifth election in under four years. years due to the prolonged political crisis since 2019.

The final results came on Thursday, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party – Israel’s largest party – set to return from invalidation in 2021 after 12 years in power.

This year, Netanyahu stands with controversial far-right figures who have openly called for violence against Palestinians, including Itamar Ben-Gvir – known for his harassment of families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood , Jerusalem and led raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

“I don’t feel good about the outcome,” said Kamila Tayyoun, a communications officer for the Palestinian political bloc led by Ayman Odeh. The coalition, which contested the elections and won five seats, includes the Arab Change Movement party and the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, known in Hebrew as the Hadash-Ta list ‘al.

Tayyoun, a Netanyahu government told Al Jazeera that “it would be very bad at the Palestinian level,” describing it as “racist” and “having a campaign of political parties largely built on built on the hatred and demonic possession of the Arabs”.

Tayyoun, who hails from Shaab on the northern outskirts of Akka (Acre), added: “The situation is not comforting.

A woman sitting on an armchair
Omayya Jabareen says Palestinian members in Knesset are just an ‘aesthetic face for “Israeli racism” [Zena Al Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

Analysis of Palestinian voter turnout rate

Palestinian voter turnout in Israel has historically fluctuated between 40-50% and the majority of voters support parties led by Arab politicians.

In Tuesday’s election, Palestinian turnout stood at approximately 55%, analysts say, higher than expected, but representing a decline from previous years. Arab parties run under the Common List coalition.

“The Arabic lists have been split and run separately. The campaigning and competition in the last few days before the election, and the fear of Ben-Gvir and his party increased the turnout, but not to a great extent,” said Saeed Zidani, a political analyst from the town of Tamra in the northwest suburb of Haifa, told Al Jazeera.

This year, three Palestinian blocs running for elections, with two passing the national electoral threshold of 3.25 percent, equivalent to four seats in Israel’s 120-member Knesset. The running parties must gain about 157,000 votes to get four seats.

In terms of votes, Mansour Abbas’s United Arabs List (UAL), which was criticized for joining the coalition government of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last year, won the most with 190,000 votes. The majority of the vote came from Palestinian Bedouins living in the Naqab desert (Negev).

“UAL got the most votes but lost the most in terms of the influence they hoped to have,” Mr. Zidani said. “Neither Netanyahu nor the other camp need it anymore. Netanyahu can form a government without it, and the opposition cannot form a government without it nor without it.”

The third Palestinian to run for office, Tajamu (also known as Balad in Hebrew), received growing support and popularity in this election, but did not translate into seats.

The party leader, Sami Abu Shehadeh, who is from al-Lydd (Lod), has an important role in connecting with the streets of Palestine during the May 2021 Palestinian uprising inside Israel, where widespread confrontations have broken out with Israeli forces as a result of forced displacement in the Sheikh Jarrah area, occupied East Jerusalem, and the war over the besieged Gaza Strip.

“The Tajamu Party has gathered their strength and the Palestinian people increasingly value them in this election, even though they have lost,” Zidani said, noting that they only need 18,000 more votes to cross the threshold. national election.

Do Palestinians believe in the Knesset?

Voter turnout among Israeli Jews is thought to have surpassed 70%, a significant gap compared with Palestinian turnout.

Zidani notes that Palestinians have no problem voting – in municipal elections, turnout is regularly higher than 90% – but the feeling is different when it comes to parliament, and turnout Voting is always much lower.

Palestinians make up about 20% of the population in Israel and hold Israeli passports. They became an involuntary minority in the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine from 1947 to 1949 to create a “Jewish state”.

Policies against them, described as “discriminatory” by human rights groups, have subjected Palestinian areas in Israel to a myriad of problems, such as restrictions on land ownership. , high crime rates and demolition of houses.

Umm al-Fahm, located in the Northern Triangle, is the third largest concentration of Palestinians inside Israel – home to 60,000 residents – after the city of Nazareth to the north and the city of Rahat in Naqab.

It is known to be home to the now outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which split in 1996 from the southern branch – now UAL – due to a decision to stand in elections. of Israel.

According to the results, less than half of the nearly 40,000 eligible voters in Umm al-Fahm took part in Tuesday’s election, with the lowest participation rate of the three largest Palestinian regions.

Ahmad Khalifa is the head of the popular committee in Umm al-Fahm, and a member of the political office of Abnaa el-Balad, another Palestinian party that boycotted the elections.

Khalifa told Al Jazeera that he believes that voter turnout among Palestinians, coupled with Netanyahu’s return, shows that many Palestinians believe that politics is more than just parliament.

“Palestinians have understood that the Knesset is not where we go to solve our larger problems, or where we go to build a national project, and that is not a place you can stop. fascism or right-wing parties,” Khalifa said.

Mr. Khalifa added that, for Abnaa el-Balad and like-minded Palestinians, the events of May 2021, cannot simply be tempered by participating in elections.

“Our political background runs counter to the project to corner us in Israeli politics and the Israeli public as citizens.

“The two-state solution has failed. Israel forces them to fail by building up settlements, by capturing Jerusalem, by preventing the return of refugees,” Khalifa continued.

Those who voted in Umm al-Fahm did not necessarily object to Abnaa el-Balad’s reading of the situation – however, they felt that there could be some improvement in daily life, as well as crime and overcrowding.

And above all, some feel that representation of Palestinians in Israel’s highest legislature is important.

“For me, our candidates… it is enough to simply raise the issue of the Palestinian people and raise the civil and national issues of the Palestinian people here,” said Hussein Mustafa Mahameed, a dentist. , speak.

“[But] As Palestinians in this state, I believe to the fullest extent that our civil problems will not be solved without addressing the broader problems of the Palestinian people,” he said. Mr. Mahameed said. “Any government that comes will be against the Palestinian people, and we are part of the Palestinian people.”


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