Jerusalem – Joint Arab List leaders celebrated as voting booths closed Tuesday night, heralding “the end of the Netanyahu era” as a surge in voter turnout led to exit polls predicting from 13-15 seats for the party.
“We feel good that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] cannot form a government,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh told supporters at their campaign event in Nazareth. “We’re back to being the third largest party in the Knesset.”
Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi said “the era of Netanyahu is over,” adding that Netanyahu “will now have to either go home or to prison,” referring to three corruption investigations currently facing the prime minister.
With Likud and the Blue and White parties running a tight race, the focus has turned to who stands the best chance of forming a coalition, and whether the Arab parties would join Blue and White—if Blue and White will have them—in order to give Blue and White leader Benny Gantz the mandate to form the next government.
While Odeh said on Tuesday night that he believed Blue and White would opt for a unity government with Likud over a coalition with the Joint List, Tibi said Wednesday morning that his party would not join a Gantz-led coalition.
“We […] cannot take any part in the government or the coalition,” Tibi told Israel’s Kan Bet radio station. “But there are other ways to advance what we want as a joint ticket, to influence the decision-making process and to be a significant actor in the parliament and in politics.”
Regarding whom the Joint List might recommend to the president to form a government, Tibi avoided giving a direct answer, saying only that “up until now” the Joint List had refrained from making such recommendations.
“The Joint List will make a responsible decision on this matter, and will do what’s best for the Arab public and will be part of making change possible,” said Tibi. “Up until now we didn’t recommend [party leaders to be charged with forming a government coalition].”
The Joint List would make its terms known to Blue and White if the party approached it, said Tibi.
“I expect that Blue and White and Gantz will turn to us and there will be a joint meeting between Blue and White representatives and the Joint List. We will make our demands heard, and we will decide among ourselves, in a democratic fashion, what to do.”
The Joint List, which split into two parties for the April election, was expected to rise from 10 seats to 12 as of Wednesday morning, based on exit polls.
Though exit polls showed Netanyahu’s Likud Party winning fewer seats than Blue and White, as of Wednesday morning less than half of the ballots had been counted.
In an interview with Walla news on Wednesday, Likud MK Miki Zohar lamented Netanyahu’s controversial camera bill push to install surveillance cameras at Arab polling stations, saying, “It woke up the Arab sector that in turn came out to the polls, while it also went on to lull right-wing voters into complacency and many of them remained at home.”
Likud has claimed that there was massive voter fraud in the Arab sector during the April 9 election.