Palestinian parties in Israel form alliance ahead of election
Leading Palestinian parties in Israel said on Saturday they had formed an alliance to fight in September's general election, the latest merger of smaller parties seeking to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, whose mainly Palestinian Hadash party is already in alliance with Arab Taal, said they had been joined by the Raam party and would run under the name of the Joint List, as they did in the 2015 election.
"I am happy to announce that we have reached agreements which will allow us to reform the Joint List," he told a news conference in the north Israel city of Nazareth, footage from which was shared on social media.
He vowed to "bring down Netanyahu's government and revoke the nation-state law ... prevent discrimination, plans of annexation and the destruction of the democratic sphere”, adding that the Joint List would also work to reject the US administration’s controversial Middle East peace plan.
"Only a strong Joint List will topple the right-wing government," said Odeh, who will head the revived alliance, according to a statement.
He added that the slate hoped voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel would increase to 70 percent, up from the 50 percent turnout the community saw in April’s election.
Taal Chairman Ahmad Tibi said the declaration was an important milestone that would allow Palestinian voters to "take part in the possibility of regime change and switching the head of the government in order to bring down the 'deal of the century,'" he said, referring to the ailing US peace initiative.
The fourth member of the 2015 alliance, Arab nationalist party Balad, is expected to say on Sunday if it will rejoin, Israeli media said.
The Joint List won 13 seats in the 2015 polls, making it the third-largest grouping in Israel's 120-member parliament, the Knesset.
In April the parties ran in two pairings: Hadash-Taal and Raam-Balad, which between them won 10 seats.
The union between Balad and Raam, which represents the moderate wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, barely scraped across the electoral threshold of 3.2 percent of votes cast - the minimum for entering parliament.
Hadash, which has its roots in the former Israeli Communist Party, has one Jewish MP in its otherwise Palestinian parliamentary ranks.
The parties represent the descendants of Palestinians who were able to remain on their land when Israel was created in 1948, and constitute nearly a fifth of the country's population.
Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies won the most seats in April, but failed at the last minute to forge a viable coalition government. The Knesset then called new elections for 17 September.
The Israeli prime minister is aiming at another term as premier while under the threat of possible indictment on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.
Last Saturday he surpassed founding father David Ben-Gurion as Israel's longest-serving prime minister.