Israel's approximately 781,350 Arabs, constituting about 17.8 percent of the population, articulated their views through elected officials on the municipal and national levels and through the Arab departments within governmental ministries and nongovernmental institutions such as the Histadrut. In the past, most elected Arab officials traditionally affiliated with the Labor Party and its predecessors, which expected--erroneously as time has proved--that Israeli Arabs would serve as a "bridge" in creating peace among Israeli Jews, the Palestinians, and the Arab world. Beginning in the mid-1970s and throughout the 1980s, increasing numbers of Arab voters, especially younger ones, asserted themselves through organizations calling for greater protection of minority rights and the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Generally, Israeli Arabs remained attached to their religious, cultural, and political values, but their ethnic homogeneity has not necessarily resulted in political cohesion. Internal fissures among Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druzes, Negev beduins and Galilee Arabs, and communist and noncommunist factions have made it difficult for them to act as a single pressure group in dealing with Israel's Jewish majority.
In 1988, despite their natural sympathy for the year-long uprising by their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israeli Arabs continued to be active participants in the Israeli electoral system. They increased their share in the total 1988 Knesset vote to more than 10 percent of the electorate, and the voting percentage among those eligible to participate was approximately 74 percent, as compared to 80 percent for Jewish voters. Israeli Arabs increased their voting support for Arab lists from 50 percent in 1984 to 60 percent in 1988.
As of 1988, Rakah (New Communist List), a predominantly Arab communist party, continued to adhere to the official Soviet line, yet explicitly recognized Israel's right to exist within its pre-1967 borders. Rakah succeeded Poalei Tziyyon, part of which split off in 1921 and became the Communist Party of Palestine. In 1948 it became the Communist Party of Israel Miflaga Komunisfit Yisraelit, known as Maki, and in 1965 it split into two factions: Rakah with mainly Arab membership, and Maki, with mainly Jewish membership. In 1977 Maki and several other groups created Shelli (acronym for Peace for Israel and Equality for Israel), which disbanded before the 1984 elections. In the November 1988 elections, Rakah maintained its relatively constant share of 40 percent of the total Arab vote and four Knesset seats. In 1988 the party's secretary general was Meir Viler, a veteran Israeli communist.
Within the Israeli Arab community, Rakah's strongest challenges came from two more radical parties, the Palestinian nationalist Sons of the Village, which had no Knesset seats, and the Progressive National Movement. The Progressive National Movement, also known as the Progressive List for Peace, came into being in 1984. Its platform advocated recognition of the PLO and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the November 1988 elections, the party, led by Muhammad Muari, received about 15 percent of the Arab vote; its Knesset delegation declined to one from the 1984 level of two.
The Arab Democratic Party, founded in early 1988 by Abdul Wahab Daroushe, a former Labor Party Knesset member, gained about 12 percent of the total Arab vote and one seat in the November 1988 Knesset elections. In a March 1988 interview, Daroushe acknowledged that his resignation from the Labor Party resulted from the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the "diminishing choices" open to Israeli Arab politicians affiliated with the government and yet tied to the Arab community by a sense of shared ethnic identity. Echoing the sentiments of other Israeli Arabs, Daroushe has stated that "The PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians" living outside Israel's pre-1967 borders.
|Country Studies main page | Israel Country Studies main page|