Ramadan Dabash Wants to Be Jerusalem’s First Palestinian City Councilman

Aug. 13 2018

Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who make up about one-third of the city’s population, have had residency rights in the city since 1967, guaranteeing them access to Israel’s welfare and healthcare systems and the right to vote in municipal elections—a right rarely exercised. Ramadan Dabash wants to change that, writes Matti Friedman:

In the last election in 2013, . . . not even 2 percent of [Jerusalem Palestinians] cast a ballot. This has helped keep [them] in limbo and has contributed to a gap that’s clear to anyone who spends time in the city’s Arab neighborhoods, which are neglected, crowded, and unsafe. Eighty-three percent of children in eastern Jerusalem are poor, according to Israeli government statistics, twice the rate in the city’s west.

That reality, Ramadan Dabash says, is why he’s flouting his community’s political taboo to run. . . . The Palestinian Authority, based in nearby Ramallah, sees participation in Jerusalem elections as a form of collaboration. Last month a council of Islamic clerics banned any involvement. Dabash says he has faced backlash in the form of hostile phone calls and messages on Facebook and WhatsApp groups, where he’s tarred as a “traitor” or a “collaborator”—epithets that carry a threat of violence.

But he’s determined to forge ahead, armed, perhaps, with the striking results of a poll released this year, according to which 58 percent of Jerusalem Palestinians support voting. Just 14 percent said they were opposed. . . Because Jewish residents here are split acrimoniously between mainstream Israelis and the ultra-Orthodox, if Palestinians have even a few seats, they’ll control crucial swing votes. . . .

Over the past five years or so, watching from west Jerusalem, it’s been clear that remarkable changes are afoot in the city’s human landscape. Not long ago, it was unheard-of to see Palestinian salespeople in Israeli stores. Now it’s commonplace. Palestinian enrollment at Hebrew University is up dramatically, as are requests for Israeli citizenship. The number of east-Jerusalem wage earners employed in west Jerusalem is now estimated at close to 50 percent. The trend is driven not by good will but by economic interests: by demand for labor in Jewish Jerusalem; and by a lack of better options for Palestinians.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: East Jerusalem, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Palestinians

Why an Arab Party Is the Real Winner of the Israeli Election

Nov. 29 2022

Although Mansour Abbas’s Islamic Ra’am party won only five seats in the new Knesset, Ofir Haivry argues that his victory is, in the long run, more significant even than Benjamin Netanyahu’s:

At first glance [Abbas’s] achievement could be overlooked: with 195,000 votes, Ra’am won five seats in the Knesset, the same number as the joint Ḥadash (Communists) and Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal) list, which together received 180,000 votes. Balad, [a third Arab party], didn’t pass the electoral threshold. . . . In other words, Ra’am received some 40 percent of the votes for Arab parties, and the remaining 60 percent were divided between the three other parties. The significance of the numbers is that Ra’am, by quite a margin, is the largest Arab party, and the only one that passed the electoral threshold on its own.

Its success comes in the wake of the move taken by Abbas after the 2021 elections—a move that was controversial in the Arab sector—when he declared his willingness to be a partner in a coalition with Zionist parties and held negotiations both with Netanyahu and the opposing camp. In the end, Abbas joined forces with the Bennett-Lapid coalition in the face of stern opposition within the Arab sector and even within his party.

The Arab electorate didn’t reject the move but rewarded him with its votes, which gave Ra’am the status of the largest Arab party and crowned Abbas as the leader of the sector. The results were not just a reward for a political maneuver. They also broke a 40-year veto that the Arab parties had imposed on any real cooperation with the Zionist parties.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israeli Arabs, Israeli Election 2022, Israeli politics, Mansour Abbas