Inter-ethnic cooperation at the local level: Arab-Jewish coalition-building in Israeli municipal councils

Grissom, Elena, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Mershon, Carol, Politics, University of Virginia
Schulhofer-Wohl, Jonah, Politics, University of Virginia

Although national platforms of inter-ethnic cooperation have been explored, little attention has been given to areas of cooperation at the local level. Do local politics provide more space for inter-ethnic cooperation than the national level? If so, what causes variation in cooperative patterns from one city to another? This study examines patterns in Arab-Jewish coalitions in city councils of mixed Israeli cities, where an Arab minority lives tensely side by side a Jewish majority. Using an original data-set covering local coalition patterns the past 20 years, as well as in-depth interviews with Arab and Jewish council members, I find that, though more inter-ethnic cooperation occurs at the city-level compared to the Parliament, ethno-politics still impact local coalition processes. More specifically, the ethno-political stance of a mayor, as well as his unwillingness to cross ethno-political ‘red lines,’ can make or break Arab/Jewish coalition formation and duration. This study hopes to contribute to deeper understanding of the complex political identity of the Arab minority in the Israel, as well as dynamics of local ethnic politicization in other deeply divided societies.

MA (Master of Arts)
Inter-ethnic cooperation, Coalition-building, Local politics, Arab minority in Israel
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