Bennett said to meet Mansour Abbas in first since Ra’am froze role in government

While Islamist party is believed planning to end its boycott, it also reportedly sees coalition as being on its last legs

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) speaks to Ra'am leader MK Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) speaks to Ra'am leader MK Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Bennett met on Sunday with Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas for the first time since Ra’am froze its participation in the coalition, Channel 13 news reported.

Bennett called the meeting with Abbas to help smooth out differences, the broadcaster said, as the Islamist party is believed planning to end its boycott of the coalition.

The meeting also came in the wake of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s threatening speech on Saturday in which he denounced Abbas as a traitor for joining the government.

Ra’am suspended its membership in the coalition after the recent clashes between Palestinians and police at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa compound.

Although tensions have not escalated further, Ra’am has yet to officially rejoin the government.

The freeze came while the Knesset was in recess anyway, making the party’s boycott largely declarative. However the government was already on the ropes after lawmaker Idit Silman, a member of Bennett’s Yamina party, bolted the coalition, erasing its single-seat majority in the Knesset.

Palestinian clash with Israeli police at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Unnamed senior sources in Ra’am told Channel 12 that they believe the coalition is on its last legs, but that Abbas wishes to return so that he can pass more items on the party’s agenda as evidence that its participation in the government pays dividends for its voters.

Abbas has already met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and the two have agreed that Ra’am will return to the fold.

During a lengthy meeting last week, Lapid and Abbas agreed Ra’am will resume voting with the coalition after the Knesset recess ends on May 9, according to Zman Yisrael, the Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.

Ra’am has issued various conditions for a return to parliamentary and government participation, such as money for economic development and advancing housing plans.

According to Zman Yisrael, after Ra’am returns to the government, the coalition will accelerate several moves important to the party, including the immediate recognition of illegal Bedouin villages in southern Israel. Ra’am draws much of its voter support from Bedouin in the Negev region.

MK Mansour Abbas, leader of the Ra’am party in the Knesset, on November 2, 2021. (Noam Moshkavitz/GPO)

The government is also expected to pass large budgets for construction and infrastructure in Arab communities, and for the increased integration of Arab citizens into government services and the public sector.

It is clear to all parties involved, however, that a serious escalation of violence, or major security incident, could still bring the partnership between Ra’am and its coalition allies to an end.

In a Saturday speech filled with murderous threats and denunciations of Israel, Hamas’s Gaza leader Sinwar slammed Ra’am and its party chief Abbas, whom he called “Abu Righal” — a legendary traitor in pre-Islamic legend.

“That you serve as a support to this government, which violates Al-Aqsa, is an unforgivable crime,” Sinwar said.

Abbas has publicly embraced a political program that seeks to achieve tangible gains for Arab Israelis.

In interviews in both Arabic and Hebrew, the Islamist has said that Israel “was a Jewish state and will remain so.”

“For an Arab to say that this is a Jewish state is the height of degeneracy,” said Sinwar. “You get a few achievements for Arab society, in exchange for the violation of Al-Aqsa?”

Security officials are considering stepping up protection for Abbas following the threats from Sinwar.

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