Arab parties in Israel expresses satisfaction that they had more of less kept a hold of their relative power in the Knesset in this election. Exit polls commissioned by Ynet and conducted by Rafi Smith indicate that
Hadash has increased its influence to five mandates, United Arab List-Ta'al won four mandates, while Balad has not yet crossed the requisite threshold to obtain Knesset representation.
Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said he was "very happy" with the results, as per Tuesday night's exit polls, and expressed hope that the actual results would be even greater. "However, even if it's not, this is still serious progress," he said.
Despite the added force, Barakeh said his party would not join any government. "When we speak with the president, we will tell him our vision of a future state. I think he's smart enough to realize that this vision does not exist under any possible government."
According to Israeli law, the creation of a coalition government is granted to the head of the faction who has the greatest chance of forming a majority coalition – in other words, not necessarily the leader of the party who received the most votes.
Barakeh also addressed his party's accomplishments, in general and in relation to other left-wing parties.
"We may have only four or five mandates, but we bear the burden of being the spearhead against
Liebermanization," he said. "People who were worried about (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman realized that they shouldn't stop at the Meretz station, but stop at the Hadash station," he added.
In this vein, Barakeh received a compliment via telephone from a member of the Palestinian legislature, who said: "You have hard work and an important role ahead of you. You must lead the fight against occupation and racism. We'll work on this, Jews and Arabs together."
Tibi censures Lieberman
Members of the United Arab List-Ta'al expressed similar joy at exit poll results, but it seems it was caused not only by their four mandates, but because Lieberman's 15 mandates according to these polls were fewer than expected.
Nonetheless, MK Ahmad Tibi said, "The Israeli public must ask itself how a fascist like Lieberman wins 15 mandates and becomes the third largest in Israel. Fifteen mandates is too much. It's shameful for Israel.
Futhermore, Tibi said his party would not recommend Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni to President Shimon Peres, when it came time to discuss possible coalition arrangements with the latter.
"Given Livni's statements about Arabs in the past, we will not recommend her (to the president) and if she forms a coalition we will not join it. We will sit in the opposition," he said.
In Balad headquarters, party members were more restrained, expressing cautious optimism that final election results would allow them to cross the requisite threshold to sit in the Knesset.
"In previous elections, we also received bad polling results and ended up with three mandates. We wanted to increase our power… It's clear that Balad kept its relative power and maybe even increased it and attempts by the public to break us have failed," members at the headquarters said.
According to Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka, one of the reasons that he is confident that Balad's strength will not decrease and will possibly even increase is that many Arab Israelis chose to vote for Arab parties in this election rather than for parties considered Zionist.
Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to this report