From Israel’s first Knesset (1949) until its tenth (1981), Arab satellite parties were part of Israel’s political landscape. Operating on behalf of the major Zionist parties, most of these satellite parties were connected to Mapai, a left-wing Zionist party. Eighteen satellite parties were established over the years. Their candidate lists were put together by the Zionist parties according to various parameters, such as tribal rivalries, ethnic representation, and more. One document shows the voting numbers for each of these satellite parties – from 1949 to 1973.
The Arab satellite parties generally lacked a platform or coherent ideology and tended to rely instead on the reputations and public prestige of their members. The existence of these parties severely undermined the capacity of Israel’s Palestinian public to organize and act collectively. From the Jewish state’s perspective, this fact helped reinforce control over the Palestinian public. Moreover, this system increased the dependency of Palestinian society (and its representatives) on the government. It perpetuated existing stratification and social divisions within Palestinian society, thereby facilitating a “divide and rule” policy concerning the various ethnic and social groupings within Palestinian society.
Although the satellite party system was based on equal voting rights for Arab citizens (a topic of controversy prior to Israel’s first election), it nevertheless created and preserved patterns of control that were electorally entrenched and remained in place for years, impacting the nature of Israel’s democracy. It was yet another aspect of Israeli policy aimed at ensuring the control of the Jewish majority over the Palestinian minority by relying on intermediaries who benefitted from close ties to the regime.
The “golden age” of satellite parties occurred between 1948 and 1966, during the Military Rule period. They continued to function after the Military Rule was abolished, but gradually declined. As Palestinian citizens became eligible for membership in Zionist parties and as independent Palestinian parties grew stronger, the need for satellite parties slowly subsided until they were completely abolished in 1981.
The document presented here summarizes satellite party voting statistics (number of votes, percentage of voters and number of seats gained) from the first to the seventh Knesset.