When the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) banned the opposition Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al parties from next month’s elections, it unsurprisingly spawned no small amount of outrage among Israel’s Arab population. After all, Arabs make up roughly 20% of the population of Israel, and the ban will likely cost them the vast majority of what little representation they had in the Knesset.
And while the Balad Party hopes to petition the Israeli High Court to reverse the decision, the average Arab on the street sees the ban as just another transparent attempt by a government to pander to the growing anti-Arab fervor in war-time Israel. Yet the reality may be even more cynical than that.
The reason Israel is having an election next month is because the ruling Kadima Party, which not-so-coincidentally was the driving force behind this ban, failed to form a coalition government in October. Cobbling together a majority coalition that doesn’t include the rival Likud Party when they hold such a large number of seats (and are likely to gain even more in the next election) is no small task. And it’s a task made even harder by the presence of Arab parties.
Though they only held seven seats in the Knesset between them, the banned parties were pretty much de facto opposition parties: no coalition with the obligatory religious and special interest parties could ever brook Arab partners. Banning the Arab parties may not help Israel’s efforts to portray itself as a “democracy” worldwide, but it may give the floundering Kadima Party its only hope to cling to power.