Profile: Arab-Israeli parties

Comprising 20 per cent of Israel, Arabs have participated in the Knesset since 1949.

Sakhnin, Israel, Arab-Israeli protest
Arabs have participated in Israeli politics since 1949 [GALLO/GETTY] 

Though Israeli-Palestinian MPs have participated in the Knesset or Israeli parliament since 1949, it would not be until 1965 that an Arab party would attempt to participate in an Israeli election.

However, Al-Ard, the Arab party, was banned by the Israeli Central Elections Committee.

In 1966, Israel began to allow more Israeli-Palestinians to participate in the political process and in 1971, Abdul-Aziz Zoaibi, an Israeli-Palestinian MP was appointed the deputy minister of health.

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In January 2007, Raleb Majadele became the first Israeli-Palestinian minister (without a portfolio) in the country’s history.

However, Israeli-Palestinian representation suffered a serious setback on January 12 this year when the Elections Committee banned two parties – Balad and the United Arab List – from running in the February 10 elections.

Arab-Israelis said the ban would prevent a large number of Arab MPs from running for re-election in February and appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the Commitee’s decree on January 21.

There are currently only four Israeli-Palestinian parties competing for 10 seats in the 120-member Knesset in the February 10 elections.

Balad party

Also known as the National Democratic Assembly, Balad was formed and registered in 1995 by former Knesset member Azmi Bishara. They have won seats in the 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2006 elections.

However, the party has had a rocky history due to Bishara’s criticism of Israeli actions and his support for Hezbollah.

In 2003, Herut, a right-wing party, spearheaded a movement to ban Balad for “supporting terror”, but the ban was quickly overturned by the  Supreme Court.

Candidates for this election include Jamal Zahalka (party leader), Said Nafa, Hanin Zuabi, Abbas Zakour, and Oonie Tuma.


Hadash is a left-wing political party in Israel whose main constituents and leaders are Arabs, even though it defines itself as a Jewish-Arab party. Hadash is a Hebrew acronym for what translates as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality.

The party agenda is rooted in Marxist ideologies and was founded in 1977. They consider themselves a non-Zionist party and support complete evacuation of settlers from the Occupied Territories, believing an independent Palestinian state should be created.

Candidates for this election include Muhammad Barakei (party leader), Hanna Sweid, Dov Henin, Abu Agberiah and Aida Tuma-Kalimah.

UAL-Taal coalition

The United Arab List (UAL) and Ta’al are two separate parties running on the same ticket. Taal was created during the 15th Knesset in 2002 after their party leader, Ahmed Tibi, broke away from the Balad party.

Also known as the Arab Movement for Renewal, the small party held seats in the 15th and 16th Knessets.

The UAL was founded in 1996 and supports a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine. Its constituency is predominantly Arab, with a strong base among the Bedouins.

Candidates for this election include Ibrahim Sarsour (party leader for UAL), Ahmed Tibi (party leader for Taal), Taleb a-Sanaa, Masid Gnaim and Taleb Abu Arar.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies