A political sideshow for much of the past six decades, Israel’s Arab minority is hoping to gain much-needed muscle after next week’s parliamentary election, with four Arab parties uniting under one banner for the first time. Surveys show the Joint Arab List could even finish third in the vote and become a factor in the coalition-building that dominates Israeli politics, where no party has ever won a parliament majority. Many in the Arab community, which makes up 20 percent of Israel’s eight million population, see the newfound unity as a breakthrough in battling discrimination and gaining recognition. Though they have full and equal rights, Arab Israelis often say they are treated as second-class citizens.
“We’ve been waiting for this for decades,” said Mirna Baransi, 24, a student from Nazareth. “We’ll have more power now to make a difference.”
Israeli Arabs are descendants of residents who stayed put during the 1948 war of Israel’s founding, in which hundreds of thousands of fellow Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes, ending up in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.