Arab MKs hint at Livni support

By Ben Lynfield, September 26, 2008

Arab Knesset members are watching Tzipi Livni's efforts to form a coalition with interest, with one veteran MK envisioning Arabs possibly giving her a blocking majority in parliament.

Taleb al-Sana, of the four-member United Arab List-Ta'al grouping, said that in terms of both domestic and foreign policy, a government headed by Ms Livni appeared preferable f or Arab citizens to one headed by right-wing Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu, the likely winner if Ms Livni failed to form a government and early elections were held.

"On the surface we think Livni could be better. But we haven't heard anything definite from her. We want to hear her views," Mr Al-Sana said.

He was part of the group of six MPs from predominantly Arab parties who solidified former premier Yitzhak Rabin's hold on power both during and after the 1993 Oslo agreement.

Their support meant that even if Shas had bolted Mr Rabin's government, it would still have had a majority.
"When Rabin was defence minister during the first intifada, we opposed him, but when he supported peace and equality we backed him. If Livni advances peace, equality and a narrowing of [social] gaps, we will support her."

However, it is unlikely Ms Livni would take the politically hazardous step of relying on Arab votes unless her efforts to strike a deal with Shas were to reach a dead end.

Mr Al-Sana played down the importance of acrimonious exchanges between Ms Livni and Arab MKs last year over her insistence that Palestinian negotiating partners recognise Israel as a Jewish state, despite the Arab MKs support for Israel as a "state of all its citizens".

"It is not important what happened in the past, it is important what will be in the future," he said. "People change when they take the job. They may be bad before and good after and vice versa."

However, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, warned that "the rhetoric of Livni is better than that of Netanyahu but in deeds they would be the same".

He predicted that neither would be willing to make the concessions needed for an agreement with the Palestinians.


Last updated: 12:34pm, September 25 2008