Ra’am chief slams other Arab parties for helping bring down previous government

Mansour Abbas questions purpose of Hadash-Ta’al alliance and its ‘dogmatic’ approach to politics, arguing it does not help Arabs; says community fears incoming right-wing coalition

Ra'am party head MK Mansour Abbas at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Ra'am party head MK Mansour Abbas at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas on Thursday slammed the other Arab parties in the Knesset, saying that by cooperating to bring down the previous government they had missed a “historic opportunity.”

“I don’t understand what their purpose is in the Knesset,” Abbas told the Ynet news outlet hours before incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to have his far-right religious coalition approved by the Knesset.

Ra’am, an Islamist party, had joined the previous government, providing it with key seats needed to achieve a majority and using that as leverage to secure commitments for significant state funding for the Arab community. Elections were called after outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid’s government lost its parliamentary majority in the face of systematic pressure from Likud and opposition parties, including the Hadash and Ta’al parties, then part of the Joint List alliance of Arab parties.

The incoming coalition, led by Netanyahu’s Likud, won 64 out of 120-seat Knesset in the November elections and is set to be the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

“Because of Tibi and Odeh we missed a historical opportunity,” Abbas said referring to Ta’al leader MK Ahmad Tibi and Hadash leader MK Ayman Odeh.

Abbas criticized the two other parties, saying “their members there don’t believe in my approach. They have a dogmatic approach, they don’t want to change.” Abbas’s Ra’am was the first Arab party to join a governing coalition.

“The whole act they put on in the Knesset” doesn’t serve the Arab population, he added.

Ahmad Tibi, left, and Ayman Odeh of the Arab Joint List during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on July 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“For a whole year Odeh and Tibi cooperated with the Likud and the Religious Zionism [parties] to bring down the previous government, and what did they gain?” he asked.

“Instead of upgrading our status as an Arab society in the State of Israel, we missed a historic opportunity.”

In the past, Ra’am, Hadash, Ta’al and the hardline Arab party Balad ran on a united slate called the Joint List. Ra’am left the alliance ahead of March 2021 elections and subsequently joined the government, while the rest of the Joint List stayed in the opposition. Balad then split off before the recent November elections, leaving the remaining two parties to form the Hadash-Ta’al alliance. Ra’am also ran its own slate and the three parties failed to sign a vote-sharing deal.

On election day, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al each won five seats while Balad failed to clear the threshold for entry into the Knesset.

Balad, Abbas said, had “just burned votes.”

Balad leader MK Sami Abu Shehadeh votes on November 1, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Abbas said that the incoming government, which includes three far-right religious parties, has raised concern in the Arab community.

“There is fear, frustration and mistrust in the government and its policies among Arab society,” he said. “There is no Arab or Druze representative in the government to reflect things from this society. The government cannot ignore it [the Arab community].”

The appointment of MK Itamar Ben Givr, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, as national security minister, along with granting him broader powers over police and direct control of the paramilitary Border Police, in particular, is worrying the community, he said.

At a conference hosted by the Anti-Defamation League in November, Abbas was asked about the prospects of his party partnering with the prospective new government.

“We want to work with any government that is formed so we can complete the plans we started with,” he said at the time, referring to Ra’am’s efforts on behalf of Arab Israelis in the last government.

Ultimately Ra’am will join the opposition.

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