The Arab kingmaker of Israel? – globes


At the start of our conversation, Mansour Abbas draws two sketches on the sheet of paper in front of him. One is a straight line, with Likud et al. on the right, Yesh Atid and Blue & White in the middle, and Meretz and Labor on the left. And where are the Arabs? I asked. The answer is a second drawing, a triangle in which one corner is the political right, the second is the left, and the third is the Arab representation, or to be more exact Raam (the List of United Arabs) and its leader, Mansour Abbas.

“That’s how I see it. Arab citizens of Israel are not really in the Israeli political game, but outside. We are not on the left, and not the poodles on the left. identifying with the left has been a big mistake. for years, and kept us entirely out, ”Abbas says.“ My approach is to say that we are not in nobody’s pocket, but for the Arab community, neither are we excluding anyone, no one. There is no doubt that we have succeeded in putting the main issue on the table, the role of Arab politics in the Israeli political system and the role of Arab politicians in the Knesset and in government. “

In a previous interview with “Globes” ahead of the September 2019 election, in which Mansour first revealed to the Israeli press his orientation and pragmatism, he said that, if necessary, he would sit with Bezalel Smotrich, then Minister of Transport, to discuss the serious problems of roads and infrastructure in Arab communities. “Let him think whatever he wants, I am not interested in that, he is the Minister of Transport and his job is to provide services to all the citizens of the country.” This morning, Smotrich issued a statement categorically ruling out any possibility of political cooperation with Ra’am. Abbas: “I am not interested in Smotrich or the satellite parties. What interests me are the leaders who aspire to form the next government.”

Abbas can be reached by phone. He takes the calls himself, and so yesterday morning, the day after the election, he answered several messenger calls from both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his potential replacement Yair Lapid, and not just from them. The calls were brief. Abbas said that, like everyone else, he would wait for the final election results and consult with his colleagues in the party leadership, including the Shura Council of the Islamic Movement, Raam’s highest decision-making body and the political bureau. But he sets threshold conditions for anyone who approaches him. “During the first meeting with the political leader who wishes Ra’am’s support for the government he seeks to form, I will ask in principle for the abolition of the policy of exclusion and boycott, and the recognition of the need to integrate Arab representation in all government institutions. This is the basic condition, which will have to accompany real implementation plans, and then we will make our decision. “

What kind of support will you be providing?

“In accordance with the end results, ours and everyone else, we will examine where we stand and lead accordingly.”

The results show that you have the balance and that could be the difference between a government and a fifth election.

Abbas hesitates to say the word “government” explicitly and looks for a way out. “Ra’am did not determine the final formula. In a democratic regime, there is the possibility of the coalition and the opposition, but also of a halfway house. We are trying to develop such a model of an intermediate point, and we do not rule out any option. Depending on the level of agreement, it is possible to progress on this scale. It is too early to talk about this or that role. The level of agreement with us will determine the position that we will adopt. It is not possible to speak of this or that role. to speak of the details of what we will accept before acquiring the principle that sees in us real partners as representatives of Arab society. “

And who do you prefer?

“Ra’am is not in the pocket of the Israeli left or right. I have no preference for either side. Anyone who meets us halfway and has the opportunity to form a government, we will consider support them. We are very careful after the bad experience with Blue & White. We are interested in being part of a successful move and nothing else. “

Here, Abbas gives a clear indication of an inclination, albeit a slight one, towards a more stable government, i.e. with Likud. This allusion is reinforced in light of a remark by one of his supporters, the mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam, in a radio interview today. Salam said it was clear the preference was for Netanyahu because he was the strongest and most stable. Abbas himself mentions the disappointment with Blue and White, who after the previous elections received the support of the entire Joint Arab List, or of which Ra’am was then a part, and dropped it.

“When the time comes, we will raise national rights as well.”

Abbas is the most pragmatic figure in Israeli Arab politics. You won’t find him making controversial remarks that provoke the Jewish public like his Balad comrades, or caustic attacks on the prime minister and right-wing people like Hadash and Joint Arab List chief Ayman Odeh, for example. . Perhaps the reason is that he belongs to the mainstream of Islam Wasathiyah (middle), moderate and favorable to compromise, and Abbas himself describes him as liberal and democratic. The best proof of this can be found in the declared policy of promoting women in the Ra’am list, which led Iman Khatib-Yasin to win fourth place on the party’s list of candidates in the party’s internal elections without the need for ‘a place reserved for a woman.

On the other hand, Abbas opposes LGBT rights, and this is one of the main reasons he split from the Common Arab List, besides the issue of cooperation with right-wing politicians. The breaking point came with the Al Arz Tahini case, when the company owned by Arab Israeli businesswoman Julia Zaher publicly supported the LGBT community by donating to help set up a hotline for Arab members of the community. Added to this was the support of some members of the Common Arab List for a bill banning conversion therapy. The breach did not heal and, in a political movement that rocked Israeli Arab society, Abbas severed ties with the Joint Arab List. Ra’am’s position was one of the main elements of his electoral platform and gained wide support among conservative Arab voters.

According to Abbas, however, the main reason people voted for Ra’am was the acceptance of the new paradigm of using the Arab vote and strengthening its influence. “We have succeeded in persuading Arab citizens that they are an electoral asset with power and influence and that the voice of Arab members of the Knesset can be meaningful.”

And what will you say now to the politicians, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, when they have meetings with you?

“First, let them sit and chat with us, and make commitments on some of our important demands, first a practical and achievable plan with full budget support for a campaign against crime and violence “This is our first priority, but it is only one of the serious problems we are experiencing. A comprehensive plan is needed to combat poverty, which affects many strata of Arab society. We need comprehensive action in in favor of unemployed youth and in terms of infrastructure. We need economic development that includes industry and commercial areas, and urban planning that facilitates legal construction. “

And what is your response to criticisms of relegating issues such as the nation-state law to low priority?

“We haven’t given up on anything. If we manage to overcome the first obstacle on the question of the role of Arab society in Israeli politics and the legitimacy of Arab society, then the beginning of an answer will be given to questions like the law on the state- nation. . When the time comes, we will of course deal with this directly, and we will also raise the question of our national rights. “

Posted by Globes, Israel Business News – en.globes.co.il – March 25, 2021

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021



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