Israeli Arabs voted in higher numbers this time than in the last election. This is good news. Here’s why.

Arab turnout at the polls this year was much higher than last election, and this is a good thing. (photo credit: Al-Arabiya)

Arab turnout at the polls this year was much higher than last election, and this is a good thing. (photo credit: Al-Arabiya)

(Central Israel) — Arab citizens of Israel turned out to the polls on March 17th in significantly higher numbers than in the previous election, according to research published today by the Jerusalem Post. Indeed, some 444,000 Israeli Arabs voted last week, compared to only 349,000 last time.

As a new citizen of Israel, I’m encouraged by this. Arabs are full-fledged citizens of the State of Israel. In this country, as in few others in the region, Arab citizens — along with Jewish citizens and all other citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religion — have the legal right to vote and to be fully engaged in free and fair elections in every possible way.

This is good news. A democracy is healthier when everyone exercises their right not simply to vote, but also their right to speak out, to publish their views, to peaceably assemble, to choose their leaders and to influence public policy according to their own religious and political beliefs, morals and values.

True, the Israeli Arab parties are significantly out of the mainstream. Some of these parties advance Communist ideology, or Islamist views, or anti-Zionist nationalist views. Indeed, the Joint (Arab) List — which just won 13 seats in the Knesset — includes parties that advance each of these views. But that’s okay.

You don’t have to agree with their beliefs to support their right to hold and advance such views in a free and democratic society. Indeed, part of the beauty of truly free societies is that despite their various flaws, they respect and vigorously protect the right of people to hold and advance minority positions.

This isn’t happening in Syria or Iran or Saudi Arabia. But it’s happening in Israel, and it should be celebrated.

Excerpts from the Jerusalem Post article:

  • Israeli Arab voter turnout was 63.5 percent in the election compared to 56% in 2013, according to the Statnet research institute, which had predicted a 63.4% turnout prior to the election.
  • Yousef Makladeh, CEO of Statnet.co.il shared its research data and polling statistics prior to the election with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, which demonstrated that the polling company was surprisingly accurate in its pre-election polling.
  • Makledeh said that 82% of Israeli Arabs voted for Arab parties in the Joint (Arab) List compared to 77% who voted for Arab parties in 2013….
  • In 2013, the Arab parties together received 349,000 votes compared to 444,000 in this election, an increase of 27.3%….
  • The Joint List ended up with 13 seats in the Knesset.
  • Apart from the Joint List, Arab voters supported in descending order: the Zionist Union with 22.8% (25,806 votes), the Likud 15.3% (17,394), Yisrael Beytenu 13.7% (15,538), Kulanu 11.8% (13,432), Meretz 11.2% (12,752), Shas 8.8% (10,016), and Yesh Atid 4.1% (4,662).

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