Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas said on Saturday that his party opposes any war but has “no influence” in security matters, in his first comments on the recent escalation between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.
Abbas explained that his party’s membership in the coalition was aimed at improving the lives of Arab citizens of Israel, and not influencing security and foreign policy matters.
“We have no influence on military operations. We are in the Knesset to work for Arab society and not to influence the foreign and security policy of the State of Israel,” he said to a Channel 12 reporter.
“We refused to receive ministries and roles in the government in order to prevent influencing difficult decisions for our people,” he wrote in a post on Facebook, adding that his party was taking a “practical approach.”
Led by a bold vision from Abbas, Ra’am broke with longstanding rejectionism by Arab parties and became the first Arab party to join an Israeli coalition in decades.
Although Abbas endeavored to make Ra’am a reliable coalition partner, joining hands with an eclectic mix of eight parties across the political spectrum took its ideological toll. Bedouin riots over perceived land grabs by the state in the Negev, as well as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police on the Temple Mount during Ramadan, led to coalition crises and to Ra’am at one point taking a coalition timeout.
Another challenge appeared on Friday as the military launched Operation Breaking Dawn, with airstrikes in Gaza in response to what officials said was an ongoing concrete threat by PIJ to target Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Mansour Abbas secured another term leading the party on Saturday as the party’s umbrella movement — the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, decided on the electoral slate for the upcoming elections, to be held on November 1.
Lawmakers Walid Taha and Iman Khatib-Yasin also secured their second and fourth spots on Ra’am’s Knesset list, respectively. Taha carried 92% of the vote and Khatib-Yasin carried 82%. Earlier in the evening, Ra’am’s Knesset faction director Waleed Alhawashla clinched the party’s third spot.
Taha also commented on the escalation in a post on Facebook, expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and calling for an end to the blockade of the Strip.
The lawmaker added that the “innocent blood of our Palestinian people” should not be used by parties as “fuel” for “political purposes.”
Right-wingers have repeatedly labeled Abbas and his party as terror supporters, despite the fact Abbas has on multiple occasions strongly condemned terrorism and has also said Israel has been and will remain a Jewish state.
Likud is widely reported to have tried to form a coalition with Ra’am following the last election, though it failed to do so as a result of a veto from the more hardline Religious Zionism party.
Since the current election was announced, several right-wing candidates and parties have said they would not rely on Ra’am to make up the 61 seats in a narrow coalition, but some have left the possibility of sitting with the party in a broader constellation vague. In July, Likud lawmaker David Amsalem was internally attacked for saying he would sit with Ra’am in a broad coalition.
Likud is currently running on a campaign narrative that a vote for the center-left is a vote for Abbas, appealing to a right-wing public that is concerned by the outsized influence that an Islamic party may have over a coalition if it could hold it hostage for key votes.
Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.