As an Arab living in Israel, Ayman Odeh never had the brightest of political futures. His fellow Arab politicians, divided among four parties with radically different ideologies, have always squabbled too much to be counted as a real force. But now Mr Odeh could be on the verge of a major breakthrough, as the top candidate on a united list for all the Arab parties for next Tuesday’s general election. The list, which could give Israel’s Arab population unprecedented political clout, was born of necessity after Right-wingers in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, raised the threshold for representation from two to 3.25 per cent, thus threatening small Arab parties with electoral oblivion.
So effective has the response proved that the Arab List is on course to win at least 13 out of 120 seats, thanks to an energised Arab public which – inspired by the new-found unity – is expected to cast off the apathy of previous elections to vote en masse.
The list is targeting 15 seats. That would be enough to gain “blocking minority” status, enough to prevent the formation of a new Right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister, while providing essential parliamentary support for a Left-leaning alternative without formally joining the coalition.
Alternatively, it could emerge as the official opposition if Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, struggling in the polls, opts for a national unity government with the buoyant Zionist Union, fronted by Isaac Herzog, the Labour leader.