'There's no love affair between Abbas and the government'

Ra’am MK: We’re boycotting Knesset votes and meetings until further notice

Walid Taha doesn’t specify why Islamist party is taking the step, but sources say Ra’am is upset about coalition’s outreach to Joint List, general disregard for its core demands

MK Waleed Taha (L) and Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas and party members at the Ra'am headquarters in Tamra, March 23, 2021, at the end of voting on election day. (Flash90)
MK Waleed Taha (L) and Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas and party members at the Ra'am headquarters in Tamra, March 23, 2021, at the end of voting on election day. (Flash90)

Spelling fresh trouble for Israel’s new and unprecedentedly diverse government, the Islamist Ra’am party said Sunday that it was halting its parliamentary cooperation with the coalition — denying it a majority, at least temporarily, at a critical time in which the government must muster a Knesset majority to pass the state budget.

Ra’am MK Walid Taha tweeted that the party would no longer take part in Knesset committee meetings nor vote in plenum sessions until further notice.

Taha didn’t specify why Ra’am was taking the step, but various Hebrew media outlets quoted Ra’am sources saying the party wouldn’t allow the coalition to hold talks with the predominantly Arab Joint List opposition party, which could weaken Ra’am.

Unlike Ra’am, the Joint List is not part of the new government, but it can still provide the coalition with support by voting for or abstaining on a given piece of legislation.

The Joint List has been fiercely critical of Ra’am’s decision to become the first Arab party to join an Israeli coalition.

Reports said many coalition parties have been holding talks with the Joint List on potentially supporting the state budget, which must be passed within 100 days of the government’s swearing-in or the government falls. The coalition has a razor-thin majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat Knesset, meaning Ra’am’s revolt denies it a parliamentary majority.

Ra’am MK Waleed Taha attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

News outlets also quoted sources saying Ra’am was voicing general frustration about the coalition’s treatment of the party, arguing that it had made the most concessions and the smallest gains, particularly regarding its demands on construction permits for its Bedouin constituents in the Negev region.

“We’re promoting the government more than it promotes us,” a source was quoted as saying by the Walla news site. “We are paying a price for all that we’re doing to keep the coalition intact, but are not receiving anything in return.”

The source also expressed dissatisfaction that promises to fight crime in the Arab community haven’t been fulfilled.

The party is also angry at the government for aggressively pushing the extension of a law barring Palestinians with Israeli spouses from getting citizenship — a law that some of its members supported recently but which fell due to the objection of the opposition and a rebel member of Bennett’s Yamina party.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas, seated, at the swearing in of the new Israeli government, in the Knesset on June 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

A Joint List source was quoted by Hebrew media outlets saying Ra’am’s latest decision was “embarrassing.”

Ra’am “is in distress due to its vote in favor of the reunification law,” the source said. “The claim that they’re anxious due to the talks with the Joint List is pathetic. They can be calm because we won’t enter the coalition. We will let them keep the embarrassment to themselves and we will keep serving our public with our own methods.”

MK Mazen Ghanaim seen at the Knesset , ahead of the opening session of the new government, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

Taha’s comments came after fellow Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim said the party would bolt the coalition if Israel were to strike in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“Gaza, Lebanon and the Muslim and Christian holy places [in Jerusalem] are red lines,” Ghanaim told the Kan public broadcaster’s Arabic-language radio, Makan.

“There is no love affair between Mansour Abbas and the new government,” Ghanaim said, saying the fate of the government is yet to be seen but he views Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as just as bad as his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.

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