Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas on Wednesday told the Knesset that in a bid to woo him into political cooperation, former premier Benjamin Netanyahu had once read to him a prepared speech Netanyahu proposed to give on the partnership between the Likud party and Ra’am.
Speaking during a plenum session, Abbas said Netanyahu read him the remarks as part of his efforts to prevent Ra’am from joining the current coalition earlier this year. Abbas juxtaposed Likud’s former heavy courting of his party — when Netanyahu is widely reported to have attempted to form a coalition with Ra’am — with its current efforts to delegitimize it.
Since the formation of the government, Likud has set Ra’am up as a boogeyman that is supposedly extorting the government and forcing it into concessions to the left — though Netanyahu has been reported to have offered Ra’am extensive concessions himself.
“I still remember the speech that Benjamin Netanyahu read to me at Balfour, about the partnership between Likud and Ra’am, and it was written by [Likud MK] Yoav Kisch,” Abbas said referring to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“Now you want to present us as supporters of terrorism?” Abbas added, after repeated attacks by Likud members.
“Yoav, you wrote the speech. Netanyahu read the speech to me. And I said, ‘What a wonderful speech,’ and you said to me — ‘I wrote it,'” Abbas told the Knesset members.
Netanyahu hosted Abbas at his official residence several times in May, following the fourth round of elections in two years. But the Ra’am leader eventually joined a coalition of other parties to form Israel’s new government, unseating Netanyahu.
Abbas later said he had preferred to conduct his initial negotiations with Netanyahu, enabling him to gain legitimacy not only on the center and left but on the right as well.
“If you continue with the incitement, I have a lot more to say,” Abbas warned the right-wing opposition MKs on Wednesday, without elaborating.
“Mansour Abbas is a friend of mine, but on an ideological level, Ra’am and the Islamic movement are very dangerous,” Kisch responded during the session.
Netanyahu and Likud have repeatedly denied publicly the existence of high-level talks that were aimed at coaxing Ra’am to join their right-wing government. Kisch on Wednesday said that the talks had only been aimed at getting Ra’am’s support of a potential Likud-led government if it already had a 61-member majority.
It has been widely reported that the only reason a Netanyahu government supported by Ra’am did not finally come to be was the utter refusal of Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich to consider a partnership with the Islamist party.