An alliance of Arab parties in Israel finalized its breakup on Thursday, setting up the possibility that a small Islamist party could hold the key to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remaining in office and avoiding prosecution on corruption charges.
“Taking into consideration the political stalemate, any Arab party might play the break-even role … in return for benefits for Arab society,” said Arik Rudnitzky, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute. “This is the main political consideration of the Islamic movement.”
Rudnitzky said Abbas’ party could do well on its own.
Later on Thursday, two left-wing candidates, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Knesset member Ofer Shelah, dropped out of the race. Huldai, the long-time mayor of the country’s secular metropolis, had launched a new party to great fanfare late last year. Their departure is expected help the left-wing Labor and Meretz parties consolidate support.
On the opposite side of Israel’s political spectrum, the Religious Zionist party joined forces with Jewish Power, a small faction comprised of the heirs to the late rabbi Meir Kahane, whose outlawed Kach party advocated the forcible removal of Palestinians and the establishment of a Jewish theocracy. The two parties united in a bid to pool votes and exceed the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.
“We are uniting. For the sake of the people of Israel, the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel,” Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben Gvir wrote on Twitter.