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Mansour Abbas praises Bennett, says his ‘courage’ is why he’s PM and Netanyahu isn’t

Ra’am party leader believes government could yet serve out its term: ‘All of the partners understand that there is a huge potential, that there is hope and something new’

Ra'am party leader Mansour Abbas addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ra'am party leader Mansour Abbas addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas said Monday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was brave to enter into a coalition with his party, and that the premier’s courage is the reason that Bennett — and not Benjamin Netanyahu — is prime minister.

“People always tell me that I did a brave thing,” Abbas said at a conference held by the Ynet news site. “But so did Bennett.”

The Ra’am MK said that at his first meeting with Bennett to negotiate over potentially joining forces in a governing coalition, “after two hours of conversation he made a decision, [he said]: ‘Mansour, we’re not going to do this behind closed doors. Let’s put out a statement that we had a discussion,'” Abbas recounted.

“That’s the courage of a leader, and that’s why he is prime minister and not Netanyahu.”

Abbas and his Islamist party made history last year when they entered into the current ideologically diverse ruling coalition led by Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. While Abbas also held multiple meetings with Netanyahu over potentially joining his coalition, they ultimately fell through — largely scuttled by the far-right Religious Zionism party’s refusal to work with Ra’am.

Abbas said that “at different levels of the negotiations” with Netanyahu “there were different goals.” These included talk of Ra’am joining the coalition, something Netanyahu has sought to deny. “We met [at the prime minister’s residence] on Balfour [Street] multiple times,” Abbas said.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (L), Yamina leader Naftali Bennett (C) and Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas sign a coalition agreement on June 2, 2021. (Courtesy of Ra’am)

The Ra’am leader said he is satisfied with his decision to enter Bennett’s government and that his relationship with the prime minister is a good one.

“Everyone doubted that we could move forward,” he said, but added that he believes the current coalition can serve out its term. This would mean the government surviving another three years in office, something some analysts have suggested is unlikely considering the vast ideological differences among its members — from the left-wing Meretz to the right-wing Yamina and the Islamist Ra’am.

The future of the government could also hinge on any potential plea deal made in Netanyahu’s corruption trial; if the former prime minister is forced to leave politics, the right-wing factions in the government could defect to rejoin with a Likud party under new leadership.

“All of the partners [in the government] understand that there is a huge potential, that there is hope and something new,” Abbas said, noting that he constantly meets with international visitors who ask about how the government manages to function. “We are only at the beginning of the road, but there is no doubt that there is potential here for a political model that can be emulated by entire societies.”

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