Nazareth mayor: Netanyahu in talks about cooperating with Ra’am after elections
‘You’ll see that Likud will ultimately sit with the Arabs,’ says Ali Salem, who is considered close to the opposition chief; Likud: ‘A complete lie’
Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem on Friday asserted that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been in touch with Arab Israeli figures about potentially cooperating with the Islamist Ra’am party after the upcoming elections.
“You’ll see that Likud will ultimately sit [in a coalition] with the Arabs,” Salem told Channel 12 news. “I spoke with Netanyahu recently. If he needs to, he’ll sit with us.”
Ra’am, which last year became the first Arab party to join an Israeli coalition in decades, has been denounced by Netanyahu’s Likud and allied parties as “terror supporters.” Mansour Abbas, the head of Ra’am, has strongly denounced terrorism on numerous occasions.
Prior to the formation of the last government, the collapse of which in June triggered the November 1 vote, Netanyahu held talks with Abbas as he scrambled unsuccessfully to assemble a coalition. However, the potential inclusion of Ra’am was rejected by the far-right Religious Zionism party, which is part of Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc.
Netanyahu and Likud have since denied having intended to form a coalition backed by Ra’am, as Abbas has said.
“A complete lie, spin meant to legitimize the link-up between left-wing parties and anti-Zionist terror supporting parties,” Likud said in response to Salem’s claim, pledging to form a government with Religious Zionism and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism factions after the elections.
In the television interview, Salem — who is considered one of the Arab figures closest to Netanyahu — also said he would lobby Arab Israelis to vote amid concerns of low turnout.
“I call on the entire Arab community to go vote. It’s not important for whom but it’s important to vote, so we raise the voting percentage,” he said.
Salem’s comments came as Israel’s Arab-majority political parties failed to sign surplus-vote sharing agreements before a Friday deadline, giving an edge to Netanyahu’s bloc.
Recent polls have predicted Netanyahu and his partners falling just short of a majority, and his opponents trailing behind, meaning a slight boost to a Netanyahu-allied party could put his bloc over the top and allow him to form a coalition.