A meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday between the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and representatives of the Joint List of predominantly Arab political parties that finished third in Israel’s recent election had a symbolic meaning greater than the political clout of the two sets of politicians in their respective domains. Blurring the Green Line that separates Israel from the West Bank affirmed a common identity between Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and those who live under its occupation, analysts noted, at a moment when debate over the viability of a two-state solution has intensified.
“They have reasserted their identity not just as Arabs, but also as Palestinians,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, of the members of the Israeli parliament who had, according to local media, met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
“There is a sense among all Palestinians that they are one people, whether citizens of Israel and called Arab Israeli, or refugees in Lebanon, or living in Gaza or the West Bank or Jerusalem,” Elgindy added.
The Joint List’s haul of 13 Knesset seats in last week’s election was an unprecedented level of representation for Arab citizens in Israel’s legislature. One in five of Israel’s 8 million citizens is a Muslim or Christian Arab, a minority that has long complained of discrimination.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rallied his own base to the polls last week by warning them that “Arabs are voting in droves.” The Joint List, in fact, was formed by four small predominantly Arab parties that would likely have been excluded from parliamentary representation by a law that raised the minimal threshold — an outcome that many saw as thwarting the law’s intent.