As Israel braces for a rather fragile coalition government, headed by the Binjamin Netanyahu-led Likud party, which managed to win only a dismal 31 seats out of the 120, scramble for power-sharing at the centre has been keeping the political class busy in the country. Although his prime ministerial plans wouldn’t be derailed, Netanyahu suffered a huge setback in the general elections held on 22 January this year, falling short of 30 seats to cross the magical 61 for a simple majority at the Knesset. While the ultra-orthodox Jewish parties managed some seats, such as Shas (11 seats), United Torah Judaism (seven seats), and the ultra-nationalist settler-heavy Jewish Home party, led by Naftali Bennett (11 seats), it was Yesh Atid, the newly formed centrist party headed by former political and radio journalist Yair Lapid that has taken everyone by surprise by winning a staggering 19 seats. However, what is sorely missing from the picture is the possible inclusion of the three Arab parties – the nationalist Balad, the Islamist United Arab List and the Arab-Jewish Communist Hadash, which have together bagged 11 seats, making them a formidable coalition partner, along with Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
Although Arab parties are represented in the Knesset, they are, as a rule, excluded from the
government. The reason that is usually cited by observers and the Israeli politicos themselves is that inclusion of non-Zionist parties, such as those of the Arab brigade, would serve to deter the Zionist dominance. To the Israeli political mainstream, Jewish majority is a non-negotiable premise, much to the detriment of the two-state solution seeing the light of the day. It is no secret that within the population demographics, it is the Israeli-Arabs who have the maximum support for a separate state of Palestine. Majority of Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Jewish people of Israel, are against the idea. Inclusion of the Arab-Isaeli parties could have a healing effect on the Middle Eastern politics in the longer term, and might dent not only the influence of orthodox parties such as Shas or Jewish Home, but also create a liberal political space within Israel that could move the peace dialogues significantly forward.