Arab Lawmakers Say Early Vote Boosts Netanyahu’s Chances

Some Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, said Wednesday that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for early elections was a simple political calculation.

Netanyahu called on Tuesday for an early election, seeking to strengthen his political position after signaling that any military action against Iran could be months away.

Opinion polls suggest Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party will coast to victory in the national vote, which he said in a televised announcement could be held within three months.

Arab Knesset members urged Arab parties and blocs to close ranks to gain more influence on the Israeli government to improve the living conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Knesset member Talab al-Sana told Ma’an that Netanyahu was concerned about his ability to approve the budget for next year, as Israel faces an economic crisis. The Netanyahu government has been unable to escape the global recession, which also affected the Palestinians.

The Israelis may re-elect Netanyahu but with a new partner in the government, and al-Sana stressed the prime minister would have a number of options other than the right. He said Netanyahu could form a centrist government without Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a far-rightist settler.

“What is needed from the Arab parties is to form an alliance to raise the participation rate in the Arab sector," al-Sana said.

He urged Arab parties to unite to influence the future government, as they did during the Yitzhak Rabin administration in the 1990s. But he said the Arab parties would remain in opposition.

Despite reports that Ehud Olmert is formulating his re-entry into politics, al-Sana said the former Israeli premier was not likely to participate in the next election. If he does, he will offer a competitive advantage to Netanyahu, al-Sana noted, but he said it needed time.

Olmert resigned as prime minister in 2008 amid graft allegations, but he was largely acquitted of the charges at the end of a trial last July and received a suspended jail term that did not raise a legal obstacle to a political resurrection.

Ahmed Tibi, another Arab Knesset member, agreed with al-Sana that Netanyahu’s failure to approve the budget was one of several reasons behind the decision.

He says another reason for calling the vote was to strip Ehud Olmert of crucial time since his acquittal to mount a challenge. The former Israeli premier resigned amid graft allegations in 2008.

Tibi said Olmert was considering a run in the election and could surprise everyone. He said Olmert would be a competitive candidate as a centrist and former prime minister.

Regardless of the outcome, "I don’t see any changes that might occur in the Arab community," Tibi said. "What’s needed is to end racism and raise the percentage of Arab votes."

It is possible for Arab parties to divide the electorate by enough to reduce the right’s chances of succeeding but not much more, Tibi said.

(Ma’an)

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