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Ra’am says will ‘leave door open to dialogue’ with incoming Likud-led coalition

Arab party MK says members may not necessarily always vote with opposition, notes incoming government ‘not good news for the Arab public’

President Issac Herzog (L) meets with Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Issac Herzog (L) meets with Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The Arab political party Ra’am stressed on Sunday that although it sits in the opposition, it will not necessarily vote in line with the bloc that opposes incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will keep the channels of communications open with the next coalition, specifically when it comes to matters that concern Israel’s Arab communities.

In comments cited by Ynet, Ra’am MK Walid Taha said he met earlier Sunday with Yesh Atid faction chair MK Boaz Toporovsky, but that he made it clear “that Ra’am has never been part of a bloc, and it will consolidate its positions and decide about its next steps.”

Taha later told Ha’aretz that Ra’am would “leave the door open to dialogue” with the incoming coalition headed by Netanyahu’s Likud alongside far-right and religious parties, even as he noted that it contained “fascist elements” and that its composition was “not good news for the Arab public.”

The party, headed by Mansour Abbas, did not recommend any candidate for prime minister during a session with Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Thursday. Neither did the Hadash-Ta’al party that met with Herzog Friday morning.

Meeting with Herzog on Thursday, Abbas said his Islamist party had “accepted the decision of the voters.”

“But we are not giving up our right to be partners and to influence. We fear that this new government will deliberately harm the achievements that Ra’am accomplished,” Abbas said, referring to its work in the outgoing coalition.

Ra’am made history last year when it became the first Arab party in decades to join an Israeli coalition under then-prime minister Naftali Bennett, shunning the rejectionism of the other Arab factions.

“We hope that the government that will be established will agree to uphold the status quo of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abbas said, referring to the Temple Mount mosque, the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam.

Netanyahu was formally given the president’s mandate to form Israel’s 37th government on Sunday. He received the support of parties holding 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, namely Likud, Religious Zionism, Shas, and United Torah Judaism.

Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich, includes the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction led by controversial MK Itamar Ben Gvir, and the anti-LGBTQ Noam party. The slate won 14 seats and is set to be the incoming coalition’s second-largest party after Likud.

Ben Gvir and many on the political right have long pushed for greater access and control over the Temple Mount, which is largely administered by the Jordanian Waqf. Currently, Jews can only visit the site at certain times and are barred from praying there, though the latter limitation has been increasingly broken in recent years.

Upon receiving the mandate to form what will be the sixth government under his leadership, Netanyahu said “the people made a clear decision in favor of forming a government headed by me,” and vowed to form “a stable and successful government, a responsible and dedicated government” that would serve “all of Israel’s residents, without exception.” He hailed “the democratic process that we are rightly proud of, [in] the sovereign, democratic State of Israel.”

“I intend to be a prime minister for everyone – for those who voted for me, and for those who did not vote for me. It reflects what I believe in and what guides my actions,” he added, echoing a statement he made shortly after initial results from the November 1 election indicated his win.

Benny Gantz’s party, National Unity, told Herzog it would remain in the opposition and declined to recommend any candidate to form the next government, saying that Netanyahu would lead a bad government and that current prime minister Yair Lapid lacks the numbers to do so.

Yisrael Beytenu and Hadash-Ta’al joined Ra’am in declining to recommend anyone for the post. Only Yesh Atid and Labor recommended Lapid as their candidate to form the next government.

Moments after Netanyahu received the mandate, the Yesh Atid party — which is about to transition from governing Israel to leading its opposition — released a statement calling Sunday “a dark day for Israeli democracy.”

Yesh Atid has accused Netanyahu’s Likud and the far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties with which he’ll form Israel’s next government of pushing an anti-democratic agenda, noting their vows to create a mechanism to override Supreme Court legislative vetoes and remake the court’s composition.

Outgoing coalition party chairs are scheduled to meet on Tuesday after Lapid appealed to his coalition partners to stand united in what he described as a struggle for the future of Israeli democracy.

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