At the beginning of our conversation, Mansour Abbas draws two sketches on paper in front of him. One is a straight line, with Likud and the other. 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 another drawing, a triangle in which one corner is the political right, the other the left, and the third the Arab representation, more precisely Raam (United Arab List) and its leader, Mansour Abbas.
“That’s how I see things. The Arab citizens of Israel aren’t really in the Israeli political game, but from the outside. We’re neither left nor poodles of the left. The big identification with the left has been a big mistake for years and kept us completely on the outside,” Abbas says. “My approach is to say that we are not in anyone’s pocket, but for the Arab community we also exclude no one, no one. There is no doubt that we have managed to put 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 government. “
In a previous interview with Globes before the September 2019 elections, in which Mansour revealed his orientation and pragmatism for the first time in the Israeli press, he said that if necessary, he would sit with Bezalel Smotrich, then Minister of Transport, to talk. on serious road and infrastructure problems in Arab communities. “Let him think whatever he likes, I don’t care. He is the Minister of Transport and his job is to provide services to all citizens of the country.” Smotrich issued a statement this morning in which he categorically rejects any possibility of political cooperation with Ra’am. Abbas: “I’m not interested in Smotrich or the satellite parties. What I’m interested in are the leaders who are striving to form the next government.”
A telephone is available to Abbas. He himself receives calls, so yesterday morning, the day after the election, he answered several calls from messenger and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his potential deputy Yair Lapid, and not just them. The calls were short. Abbas said that like everyone else, he would wait for the final results of the election and consult with his party leadership colleagues, including the council of the Shura Islamic Movement, the supreme decision-making body of the Ra’am and the political bureau. But he sets thresholds for everyone who turns to him. “At the first meeting with a political leader who wants Ra’am’s support for the government he wants to form, I will demand, as a matter of principle, the abolition of exclusion and boycott policies, and recognition of the need to integrate Arab representation in all government institutions. implementation plans, and then we will make a decision. “
What support will you provide?
“In line with the final results, ours and everyone else’s, we will examine where we are placed and act accordingly.”
The results show that you are holding a balance and that this could be the difference between the government and the fifth election.
Abbas is reluctant to explicitly utter the word “government” and seek a way out. “Ra’am has not determined the final formula. In a democratic regime, there is the possibility of coalition and opposition, but also half the house. We are trying to develop such a point model in between, and we do not rule out any option. According to the level of agreement, it is possible to advance on this scale. to talk about this or that role. The level of agreement with us will determine which position we will take. It is not possible to discuss the details of what we will accept before we acquire a principle that sees in us true partners as representatives of Arab society. “
And who would you prefer?
“Ra’am is not in the pocket of the Israeli left or right. I have no preference for either side. Whoever finds himself halfway through and has the option of forming a government, we will consider support. We are very cautious after a bad experience with Blue & White. We are interested in part of the successful move, not in anything else. “
Abbas here gives a clear hint of affection, even if only insignificant, towards a more stable government, ie. Likudu. This hint becomes stronger in light of the remark of one of his supporters, Mayor Nazareth Ali Salam, in today’s radio interview. Salam said it was clear that Netanyahu had the advantage because he was the strongest and most stable. Abbas himself mentions the disappointment with Blue & White, who after the previous election received the support of the entire Common Arab List, or of which Ra’am was then a part, and let him down.
“When the time comes, we will raise national rights as well.”
Abbas is the most pragmatic figure in Israeli Arab politics. You won’t catch him in controversial remarks provoking the Jewish public like his comrades in the Ballad, or in scathing attacks on the prime minister and people on the right, like Hadash and Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh, for example. The reason for this may lie in the fact that he is from the stream of Islam Wasathiyah (Middle), who is moderate and favors 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 on the Ra’am list, which led to Iman Khatib-Yasin winning fourth place on the list of party candidates in the intra-party elections without needing a reserved seat for a woman.
Abbas, on the other hand, opposes LGBT rights, and that was one of the main reasons he broke away from the Joint Arab List, in addition to the issue of cooperation with politicians on the right. The turning point came with the Al Arz Tahini affair, when a company owned by Arab-Israeli businesswoman Julia Zaher publicly supported the LGBT community with a donation to help establish a line to help Arab community members. Added to that is the support of some members of the Joint Arab List for a law banning conversion therapy. The violation did not heal, and in a political move that shook Israeli Arab society, Abbas severed ties with the Joint Arab List. Ra’am’s stance was the main board of his election platform and gained widespread support among conservative Arab voters.
According to Abbas, however, the main reason people voted for Raam was to accept a new paradigm for the use of the Arabic voice and strengthen its influence. “We have managed to convince Arab citizens that they are an electoral treasure with power and influence and that the voice of the Arab members of the Knesset can be significant.”
And what will you say now to the politicians, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, when they hold meetings with you?
“First of all, let them sit down and talk to us and commit to some of our important demands, among which the main one is a practical and feasible plan with full budget support for the campaign against crime and violence. That is our first priority, but it It is just one of the serious problems we have, we need a comprehensive plan to fight poverty, which affects many parts of Arab society, we need comprehensive action on unemployed youth and infrastructure, we need economic development that includes industrial and commercial zones, and urban planning which facilitates legal construction. “
And what is your response to criticism for lowering issues like nation-state law to a lower priority?
“We have left nothing behind. If we manage to overcome the first hurdle regarding the role of Arab society in Israeli politics and the legitimacy of Arab society, the beginning of the answer will be given to questions like the Nation Law. When the time comes, of course, we will address that issue. , and we will raise the issue of our national rights. “
Posted by Globes, business news in Israel – en.globes.co.il – March 25, 2021
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