Move against Arab party could spark crisis in Jewish Arabties.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
seats, according to the polls.
The survey also showed that Israeli Arabs would
not boycott the Jan. 28 elections, as they did in
February 2001. Some 71 percent plan to vote, and a
quarter of those would vote for Jewish parties.
The survey also found a reversal of the trend of
among Israeli Arabs. Nearly 45 per-
Beshara has denounced the charges against him as "a
lie and a libel." He asked why the attorney general is • cent identified themselves not as Palestinians but
primarily as Israeli Arabs, reversing a trend that had
using the Shin Bet to try to disqualify a political
seen Arabs' self-identification as Israelis drop from
party, and launched an e-mail campaign directed at
54 percent in 1995 to 34 percent in early 2001. The
human rights organizations, members of parliaments
researchers said the change was due primarily to dis-
and other public figures throughout the world,
with the results of the Palestinian
protesting the attempt to deprive Israel's Arabs of
their political rights" and "enforce Zionist ideology."
Smooha and As'ad conclude that banning Balad
Beshara, 46, undoubtedly is the No. 1 ideologue in
will not create a "political earthquake" among Arab
the Israeli Arab political arena. Despite his limited
voters. Based on their survey — which was held
political power, his call for "a state of all its citizens"
prior to the attorney-general's request — they said
— which would strip Israel of its Jewish nature —
Balad supporters would boycott the elections, but
has had a tremendous impact on the political think-
of other Arab parties would not.
ing of Israel's Arab population, and has been adopted
by the other major Israeli Arab parties.
Only a minority of Israeli Jews — those who lived
in Palestine before 1948, and their descendants —
would be allowed to live there.
early two years ago, in Israel's last elec-
tions, members of Azmi Beshara's Balad
Party spearheaded the public campaign
among Israel's Arab citizens to boycott
the elections. Now Balad has taken a U-turn: It is
launching an international campaign against
Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein's demand to
ban the party from running in the upcoming gen-
Rubinstein's request to Israel's Central Elections
Committee to disqualify Balad relies on a recent
amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset bans
parties that negate "Israel's existence as a Jewish
state and express support for the armed struggle
At stake not is only the status of one Arab party.
The attempt could impact the already-fragile relations
between the Jewish state and its Arab
The Central Elections Committee
will have to define the thin line
between the political rights of the Arab
population and the possible challenge
to the very existence of the state. In
other words, it will have to decide how
Arab an Arab party can be.
Rubinstein came to the elections
committee with a thick portfolio of
documents — many of them from
the Shin Bet security service's secret
archives — designed to prove that
"Balad is putting on a mask." The
party, which claims to be a legitimate
political organ of Israel's Arabs, actu-
ally is a tool in the effort to destroy
Israeli Arab lawmaker Azmi Beshara, right, objects to the proposed
Israel as a Jewish state, Rubinstein
ban of the Balad Party.
The main points Rubinstein raised:
• On June 2001, at a rally in
Damascus, Beshara called for "a unit-
Although his faction holds just one seat in the
ed'Arab stand to expand the resistance against
Beshara has worked hard to establish himself
alternative to the growing influence of
the Islamic movement in Israeli Arab politics. Recent
of the Palestinian intifada, Beshara met with
polls show that he is still far from reaching that goal,
Hamas representatives in Hebron and told them
because Beshara may be more radical than his voters.
that as a member of the Knesset he was a tool in
A survey conducted by Sammy Smooha and As'ad
the Arab struggle against Israel. He allegedly told
of Haifa University projected that the
them that he had urged Palestinian Authority
Hadash Party — which recently formed
leader Yasser Arafat to form a united Palestinian
an alliance with legislator Dr. Ahmed Tibi — would
front and unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, a
become the strongest Arab party in the next elec-
move that Israel's Arab citizens would endorse.
tions, with four mandates.
• Balad has a "hidden agenda" that calls for the
The United Arab List, which is strongly influ-
creation of a secular state in place of the Jewish
enced by the Islamic Movement, would shrink from
state. The boundaries of the new state would lie
five seats to three, and Balad would win two Knesset
"from the Jordan River to the" Mediterranean Sea.
Some analysts, however, argue that banning Balad
would have repercussions beyond the Arab electorate.
Writing in the Ma'ariv newspaper, commentator
Yehuda Litani said Rubinstein's appeal might already
have produced an additional Knesset seat for Balad.
If Balad is disqualified and its voters boycott the
elections, Litani said, the chances that the Labor
Party could prevent the Likud Party from forming
the next government would become even slimmer.
Prior to his move against Balad, Rubinstein asked
the Central Elections Committee to ban the candi-
dacy of Baruch Marzel, an activist from the far-right
Herut Party, for allegedly promoting racist views.
Some critics see that move as an attempt to balance
Rubinstein's push against Balad.
Shawki Khatib, head of the Supreme Monitoring
Committee of Israeli Arabs — an organization of
Arab mayors, legislators and other public figures —
came out in defense of Balad's right to run in the
elections. Khatib, himself a member of Hadash,
argued that no democratic state can ignore Beshara's
message that the state belongs to "all its citizens."
The Central Elections Committee will begin
reviewing a number of appeals to disqualify parties
next week. Petitions to do so also have been filed
against Hadash and Herut.
If the committee bans any of the parties, they can
appeal to the High Court of Justice. The process
should be completed by Jan. 6, more than three
weeks before the elections.
The Central Elections Committee is chaired by
Supreme Court Justice Michael Heshin, and
includes representatives of the various parties.
Though the votes to ban the parties may be there,
the committee is unlikely to rush to take drastic