I think it’s a shame that Meretz and Hadash could not form a joint electoral list this time around; in some ways they are mirror images, with Meretz being mainly Jewish but consciously inclusive of Arabs, while Hadash is the other way around. Meretz is “Zionist,” in a very basic but non-chauvinistic way, and Hadash is officially not Arab, but bi-national. (I have written on this in my online column for NY Jewish Week, http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/israels-election-arabs-up-meretz-out.) They might have run together as a strong voice for Israel as a uniquely shared Jewish-Arab society, but there is a shockingly large ethnic divide that makes this difficult.
Ayman Odeh (pictured above), the Hadash leader chosen to head the united Arab list, is quoted in The Times of Israel as endorsing the Jewish right to national self-determination in Israel:
I believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination, which the State of Israel has fulfilled. The Palestinian state is meant to realize the right to self-determination of the Arab Palestinian people, and here it ends. In other words, the fact that Jews in Israel enjoy the right to self-determination doesn’t mean they should discriminate against the Arabs.
I certainly won’t agree that in my homeland — which is today a joint homeland for both our peoples — the state will be defined and effectively act as the state of only one nation. I want to see myself everywhere and be a full partner. [Read more: After uniting Arabs behind him, Ayman Odeh looks to lead opposition | http://www.timesofisrael.com/after-uniting-arabs-behind-him-ayman-odeh-looks-to-lead-opposition/#ixzz3TQRFTFld]
In the meantime, Ha’aretz reports that the Zionist Union (the Labor-Livni slate) and Meretz may revoke their surplus-vote accord and sign with other parties. This is the J Street News Roundup summary of the article:
The Zionist Union and Meretz are considering revoking their surplus-vote agreement and signing similar accords with other parties, to avoid losing — and possibly to gain — Knesset seats. The Zionist Union is considering signing such an agreement with Yesh Atid, while Meretz might sign one with the Joint List, which includes Jews and the main Arab parties. According to the law, two parties can agree to combine their surplus votes. These are votes that a party receives but that are not enough to qualify for a full Knesset seat.
The Times of Israel now reports that Meretz has reached an excess votes agreement with the Zionist Union, possibly resulting in an extra Knesset seat for the center-left bloc after the elections. Earlier negotiations between Meretz and the Joint Arab List failed to reach a deal, meaning any votes for the Arab parties that don’t round off will go to waste, because the nationalist Balad party within the Arab list (including the fiery MK Haneen Zoabi) objected to cooperating with a “Zionist” party.
If Meretz had succeeded in making this agreement with the Arab list, it would have freed up the Zionist Camp (the Labor-Livni list) to make the same deal with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, possibly squeezing out extra seats for the center-left bloc on both ends. Instead, neither the Arab list nor Yesh Atid have excess vote agreements, meaning that the votes over what they require to win seats will not be combined to possibly result in more seats.