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Ra’am chief calls for calm in Jerusalem, insists party committed to coalition

Mansour Abbas says events at Temple Mount on Friday ‘were very difficult,’ but adds that his party is working to ‘bring people together’

Ra'am party leader Mansour Abbas speaks to Channel 12 news, on April 16, 2022. (Screenshot)
Ra'am party leader Mansour Abbas speaks to Channel 12 news, on April 16, 2022. (Screenshot)

The head of the coalition’s Ra’am party said Saturday he and his party want to see the coalition succeed, and sought to downplay the prospects of Ra’am bolting the government over Israeli-Palestinian clashes in Jerusalem.

Speaking a day after he said violent clashes on the Temple Mount were a “red line” that could cancel out other political considerations, Abbas, speaking to Channel 12, said his party wished to continue to make headway on Arab causes from within the government.

Beyond Abbas’s previous comments, party MK Mazen Ghnaim threatened to quit the coalition Friday “if the actions of the security forces at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque aren’t halted immediately.

“A government that acts this way… has no right to exist,” he said.

Abbas said Saturday that “each Ra’am member carries a heavy weight of responsibility, and is in an uneasy position on certain matters.

“The scenes at Al-Aqsa were very difficult. It doesn’t matter how it started or how it ended. When you see those pictures it affects people’s nerves and so you’ll see various reactions. We acted and put out a call for calm and to give [the mosque] its respect, to allow people to pray in peace.”

MK Mazen Ghnaim speaks during a committee meeting, in the Knesset, on October 27, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

But, he said, “We in Ra’am are united. We have a joint leadership, we came into the coalition to advance the Arab public’s interests. We do that and do our part to calm spirits and bring people together.”

He said he hoped that “the holiday atmosphere calms things down and brings people to rethink tolerance, values, the sanctity of life.”

Early on Friday clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Temple Mount. Over 150 Palestinians were injured according to the Red Crescent; Israel said three officers were also hurt. Police said some 400 were detained, around 300 of whom were freed on Saturday.

Abbas noted that “all those who said Ra’am would be the one to create a crisis and break apart the government — that hasn’t happened so far. We have a historic opportunity we wish to take advantage of, for the good of the Arab public and the good of Israeli society.”

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on Friday, April 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The current Israeli government has been brought to the brink of collapse in recent days after a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party quit the coalition, causing it to lose its razor-thin majority. The 120-member Knesset is now deadlocked, with both the coalition and opposition comprising 60 seats apiece.

Some have suggested that the opposition’s Joint List, a majority Arab party that is separate from Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition bloc, could help the coalition pass some votes. The party itself has issued conflicting messages on the matter.

“No one expects the Joint List — and I don’t think it’s realistic to ask them — to join the coalition, but certainly they have various interests, they want to advance issues in the Arab public and the government is open to such things,” Abbas said.

The Ra’am chief also criticized Joint List chief Ayman Odeh for his call to Arab members of Israeli security services to resign, a statement that caused a storm of controversy in the Knesset, and brought on criticism even from left-wing members of the coalition.

“That was a mistake,” he told Channel 12. “It doesn’t do any good for anyone.”

In a Friday statement on the violence in Jerusalem, Ra’am said that “Al-Aqsa is [part of] the faith and there is no place for political considerations regarding it.”

“Muslims have the exclusive right to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The daily invasions are an aggression against that exclusive right.”

Amid the clashes, police said in a statement that it was committed to allowing prayers to take place at the holy site. “We call on the worshipers to maintain order and observe the prayers in an orderly manner. The Israel Police will not allow rioters to disrupt the prayers and disrupt public order,” the statement said.

Palestinian protesters 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)

Police said the violence was started by “violent elements” who had sought a confrontation with police, collecting stones and other weapons in the compound and challenging security forces there.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Israel is committed to freedom of worship for people of all faiths in Jerusalem, and our goal is to enable peaceful prayer for believers during the Ramadan holiday.”

The riots “are unacceptable and go against the spirit of the religions we believe in. The convergence of Passover, Ramadan, and Easter is symbolic of what we have in common. We must not let anyone turn these holy days into a platform for hate, incitement, and violence,” he said.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers condemned the incidents, saying in a statement that Israel would bear the consequences of its “brutal assaults.”

“Our people in Jerusalem are not alone in the battle for Al-Aqsa. The whole Palestinian people and its noble resistance and its vital power are with them,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum.

Multiple Arab nations, including Israeli allies, harshly condemned the authorities’ actions on the Mount.

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