Ra’am said to be leaving door open to cooperation with anti-Netanyahu bloc

Mansour Abbas reaches out to Gideon Sa’ar, urging him to cease ‘insulting’ claims that his party will hand premier next government; says he’s not in pocket of either side

Ra'am party chairman and Joint List MK Mansour Abbas at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 11, 2020. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)
Ra'am party chairman and Joint List MK Mansour Abbas at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 11, 2020. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)

Ra’am party chairman Mansour Abbas reportedly has conveyed a message to New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar indicating that he is interested in cooperating with the bloc opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the March 23 election, against the backdrop of claims that his Islamist party will grant the Likud leader the support necessary to form a narrow right-wing government.

A Sunday Channel 13 poll predicted a split between the pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs, with neither having enough to form a coalition on their own. In this scenario, Ra’am with its four seats would have the power to tip the scales in either bloc’s favor. The survey has led to the right-wing, anti-Netanyahu New Hope party warning that Ra’am will back a Likud-led coalition from the outside and keep Netanyahu in power — a claim that both parties have denied.

The Kan public broadcaster reported Monday that Abbas has urged New Hope not to include him as a part of the pro-Netanyahu bloc, since that it “insults” him.

While Ra’am has been seen by a growing number of analysts as a party more likely than others to cooperate with a narrow right-wing coalition, given the Islamist faction’s ultra-conservative stances, Abbas is seeking to assure the anti-Netanyahu camp — which includes progressive parties such as Labor, Meretz and parts of the Joint List — that it is willing to cooperate with them as well, Kan reported.

Moreover, Ra’am’s affiliation with the broader Islamic and Palestinian movements would likely make it difficult for chairman Mansour Abbas to hand Netanyahu the premiership, despite his insistence in recent months that he is willing to cooperate with any coalition that is prepared to advance reforms that benefit the Arab Israeli minority.

Head of the New Hope party Gideon Saar attends a conference of the Israeli Manufacturer’s Association in Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2021. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

However, one of the most radical members of Netanyahu’s potential coalition, Itamar Ben Gvir from the Religious Zionism party, told the B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference on Monday that “if Mansour Abbas says tomorrow ‘I change my mind, I think killing a baby because she is Jewish is wrong,’ then we can have a conversation about him supporting the government from the outside.”

Abbas has never said that he supports killing Jewish babies and he threatened to file a libel suit against Ben Gvir. Moreover, the Ra’am chair vowed not to back any government that includes Ben Gvir of the extremist Otzma Yehudit faction.

Clip calls Yamina, New Hope voters ‘traitors’

Mudslinging was seen from other directions as well. An unattributed video making the rounds on social media branded Yamina chair Naftali Bennett and Sa’ar, along with their supporters, “traitors” — a loaded term in Israel that was used against former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the lead-up to his assassination. While no party claimed responsibility and several factions condemned the clip, Likud filed a complaint with the police, claiming that it was put out in that party’s name in an attempt to make the party look like it had crossed a line.

Meanwhile, Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz became the first party leader to openly declare that he will recommend Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid be tapped with forming the next government. Lapid himself has largely avoided identifying himself as a candidate for prime minister in an apparent attempt to avoid the face-off with Netanyahu that the Likud leader has been seeking for weeks.

“I see him as the head of the largest party in our bloc with the best chance form a government. We will be part of the government with him [at the helm],” Horowitz told the Ynet news site on Monday.

Asked if Meretz would resign, as polls have the left-wing party consistently hovering near the electoral threshold, he asserted that it would not. “A strategic vote is to vote for Meretz in order to prevent Netanyahu” from forming a narrow right-wing government,” Horowitz added.

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