Ahmad Tibi recent announcement that he would split from the Joint List has rattled Palestinian citizens. In an interview, he speaks about the successes and failures of the list, why his party would be better off alone, and why he may join forces with Israel’s centrist leaders.
By Meron Rapoport
Four years after it was established, the Joint List, which succeeded in uniting Israel’s Palestinian parties, is on its way toward dissolution. Dr. Ahmad Tibi, who heads the Arab Movement for Renewal faction, also known as Ta’al, made a surprising announcement last week, declaring he would run independently in the upcoming elections, set for April 9. The reason stems from Tibi’s position in the Joint List, which also determines how many seats his faction is allocated. It is possible, however, that the decision reflects a deeper rift in Palestinian society in Israel.
Tibi, a gynecologist born and raised in the city of Taybeh, appeared on the political scene following the Oslo Accords in 1993, when he was appointed to be Yasser Arafat’s advisor on Israeli affairs. He appeared in the Israeli media and came to symbolize — especially in the eyes of the Jewish Israeli public — the relationship between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the PLO. In 1995 he established Ta’al, although he has never run alone in elections, always pairing up with the other Palestinian parties, including Hadash, Balad, and the Islamic Movement.
Even today he remains the Palestinian politician with the most face time in the Israeli media, possibly the reason he has gained so much favor among Palestinians in Israel. Polls published since he announced his departure from the Joint List show him clocking in at six seats Knesset seats — the same number that all three remaining factions comprising the Joint List would receive should they run collectively.
Tibi sounded unwavering in his decision to run independently when I sat down with him in his home in East Jerusalem, convinced that he could easily pass the 3.25 percent election threshold. On the other hand, he does not reject the idea of the Joint List outright, and sees the advantages of united political representation for the Palestinian public. He only demands that that public have a say on the makeup of the list — and who leads it.
Tibi also sees advantages in going solo. Not only because he believes that competition between the various parties will increase voter turnout, thus bolstering the power of the Palestinian community in the Knesset, but also because he has set a goal...Read More