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Mansour Abbas: Ra’am won’t topple government, but will press coalition on key issues

Islamist party leader tells Saudi news site that he’s working with Jordan to resolve tensions surrounding Temple Mount; won’t rule out joining potential Netanyahu-led coaliiton

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

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas said in an interview published Friday that his party will not bring down the government and that he is working with Jordan to resolve tensions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

“There may be developments that will drag us into making a decision we do not want,” Abbas said in an interview with the Saudi-backed Elaph news site.

“But within the general framework, the correct approach that I see is not to have a direct hand in bringing down the government and dissolving the Knesset, but rather to pressure the government on various issues with the other tools we have available,” he told Elaph, which did not specify when the interview took place.

Abbas noted that opposition factions do not have a majority needed to form a new government without going to elections.

“Overthrowing the government would require 61 lawmakers [from the Knesset’s 120 MKs] and thus the formation of an alternative government, and this does not exist,” he said.

“We want to see political achievements and strengthen the political position of our Arab society, so we have been very patient with the scramble within the coalition,” he said.

Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas attends the INSS conference in Tel Aviv on April 11, 2022 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

However, the Ra’am chief would not rule out joining a potential future coalition led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that his party would be pragmatic if needed.

“The strength of the party is that it has opened itself up to several options, even in negotiations,” Abbas said, referring to talks in the wake of the 2021 elections.

“Any party that wants to maintain a political strategy must have flexibility and the ability to maneuver. If you confine yourself to one job in one position, you become ineffective,” he added.

Ra’am last month suspended its membership in the coalition amid clashes between Palestinians and police at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa compound. On Sunday, Abbas reportedly met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for the first time since Ra’am took its coalition time out.

Abbas told Elaph that he believed that tensions at the Jerusalem holy site could be resolved with the involvement of the Jordanians, who hold custodianship.

Abbas reportedly traveled to Amman last month to meet with King Abdullah II and the two were said to discuss the tensions in Jerusalem.

“I believe there will be success by working with perseverance and understanding. Of course, we are dealing with peaceful dialogue. We are not declaring it a religious or national war. We are saying that there must be a solution, and these violations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque must be stopped,” Abbas said.

Israeli police accompany a group of Jews touring the Temple Mount on May 5, 2022, as the Jerusalem holy site was reopened to non-Muslim visitors. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Known as Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa complex to Muslims, the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest.

In line with the current status quo, Muslims can visit and pray at the site, but non-Muslims may only visit.

In recent weeks, it has been a flashpoint for conflict, with Palestinian riots, clashes with the Israel Police, and extremist Jewish attempts to pray on the Temple Mount.

Tensions on the holy site have reverberated into terror attacks, pressure with Israel’s allies, threats from Hamas, and the exacerbation of the ongoing coalition crisis.

Palestinian rioters hurl stones toward Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 15, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

With tensions again rising in Jerusalem, Ra’am is facing increased pressure from its umbrella religious organization, the Southern Islamic Movement, over its coalition membership, party officials said Thursday evening.

Ra’am officials said that the Southern Islamic Movement’s Shura Council, an advisory body to the party, is preparing to meet soon to discuss the latest developments on the Temple Mount, following Thursday’s first permitted Jewish visits to the holy site in two weeks and subsequent Palestinian rioting.

Abbas is abroad and those in the movement pushing to leave the coalition are taking advantage of his absence to renew their efforts, according to a report from Channel 12 news.

Those against a full exit are working to prevent the council from calling for such a move. They instead want to wait until a day before the Knesset returns from its current break on May 9, then make a more considered decision on what to do, the station said without citing sources.

The coalition currently only has 60 seats in parliament — exactly half of the Knesset total of 120. If Ra’am pulls out its four seats, the government will find itself in a minority.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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