The Status of Arab Parties in the Political Structure of Israel

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran



Political participation of groups, parties, and minorities is a major topic of modern politics. Democracy is defined and measured by the use of a score of indicators, including the removal of all legal obstacles for the full representation of all citizens, the fair and equitable access of minorities to political decision-making mechanisms and processes, and governing elite rotation irrespective of ethnic-religious identities. Based on the indices of democracy, the more a political regime and the ruling majority observe the minorities' rights, the higher the rank of the political system would be. Participation of the Arab and Palestinian parties in the occupied territories is a major challenge for Israel. On the one hand, Israel has evaded facilitating real and practical participation of the 48 Arabs and, on the other, it has no option other than tolerating the growing significance of the population of the Arab Israelis in its political system. After the ratification of the Jewish Nationality Bill, Israel has shown very little commitment to Palestinians' minimal participation already in place. The electoral system that informally enforces Knesset membership, compliance with the ruling system, and agreement with the central government literally means the exclusion of the Palestinians from various forms of political participation. Absurdly, the Arab parties' internal coalitions with themselves and with the ruling parties have not been facilitating their reasonable inclusion in political decision-making at the national level.
In the present paper, the Arab parties' Knesset participation and outcomes during the past five decades were examined, and Palestinians' political representation in Israeli Parliament were compared and contrasted to that of Israeli and Jewish parties. The main research questions are as follows:         1. What are main Arab political parties in Israel? 2. Why are they not allowed to really influence Israeli politics despite the all-round participation of Palestinians in various elections, and the presence of some Arab representatives in the Knesset? In the hypothesis, it is stated that the disproportional ceiling specified for the participation of non-Jews in the political process in Israel has affected the extent and quality of the influence of the Palestinian Arab parties even if they would gain a large percentage of the popular votes. Using an analytical-explanatory approach, we collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data on a number of important independent variables including legal obstacles to political participation of Arab parties with different political-religious ideology (e.g., Christian, Sunni, secular, socialist and communist), the level of participation of Palestinians in the Knesset elections held during 1949-2019 time period. The findings confirm that the coalition of Arab parties with each other or with the top Jewish parties had not facilitated their entry into the cabinet or the high-level political executive positions in the government. Following the passage of the Jewish State Law, the Israeli government has demonstrated that it has virtually no commitment to guarantee even the low level of Palestinian participation. The analysis of the participation of Arab parties in the Knesset and its consequences during the last five decades shows a declining influence of these parties as a result of a greater tendency of Israeli government to keep the power of the Palestinian parties in check.


Main Subjects

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