In past, Abbas had not ruled out coalition with Likud leader

Ra’am’s Abbas says Netanyahu is ‘history,’ won’t back his bid to retake power

Islamist party’s chair blames former PM for crime wave and empowering far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir, criticizes former partners Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi for voting with opposition

Ra'am leader MK Mansour Abbas leads a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, June 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Ra'am leader MK Mansour Abbas leads a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, June 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Ra’am party chair Mansour Abbas promised on Friday to not support opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to form a government following the next election and blamed the Likud leader for a rampant outbreak of violent crime faced by the Arab community in recent years.

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Abbas argued that an unrelenting crime wave, which has claimed hundreds of lives, began while Netanyahu was premier and called him out for his role in the political success of far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir.

“We are with the change government, and won’t support Netanyahu — he is history. He returned Ben Gvir to Israel’s parliament,” Abbas said, referring to Netanyahu’s efforts to broker a deal to ensure Ben Gvir’s ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit faction ran with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism.

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 factionist.

Despite Likud’s public protests, Abbas says Netanyahu courted him for his own unsuccessful coalition-building efforts last year. In the past, Abbas has not ruled out sitting with the opposition leader in a government but has recently changed his tone.

Netanyahu’s far-right backers would be unlikely to accept sharing a coalition with Ra’am, a socially conservative Islamist faction, in any case, making the prospects of such an alliance near nil.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu delivers an election campaign speech from inside a modified delivery truck with a side wall replaced with bulletproof glass, in Beersheba, southern Israel, September 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Likud, which has pilloried Ra’am as terror supporters, appeared to welcome the comments.

“Now it’s clearer than ever: It’s either a nationalist government led by the Likud for four years or [Prime Minister Yair] Lapid and [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz with Ahmad Tibi and the Muslim Brotherhood,” referring to the leader of Arab  Ta’al party and Abbas’s Ra’am party.

Abbas also blasted Tibi and Ayman Odeh, who heads the Hadash-Ta’al combined slate, for voting with the Likud and their right-wing allies in the Knesset as part of their successful effort to overthrow the government earlier in the year.

Asked about the recent disqualification of the hardline Balad party, led by Sami Abou Shehadeh, Abbas said he had no problem with them running in the election.

For several years, the mostly Arab Hadash, Ta’al, Ra’am and Balad ran together at elections as the Joint List. Despite widely divergent ideologies, the marriage of convenience ensured the small factions could all cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Head of the Balad party MK Sami Abu Shehadeh attends the Central Elections Committee meeting on the disqualifying of the Balad party from running in the upcoming Israeli elections, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, September 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ra’am broke off from the slate to run by itself ahead of the 2021 elections to pursue its alternative vision to join a government and defied predictions by squeaking over the threshold.

Balad broke off ahead of the upcoming elections, scheduled for November 1, and on Thursday was disqualified for running by the Central Elections Committee due to its hardline views.

It is forecast to fall below the necessary 3.25% floor even should it win an appeal against the decision, though Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al are expected to pick up 4 seats each.

Abbas had earlier indicated he would be willing to join any government in order to have a say over how budgets and other resources are divvied up.

“When you are dividing up the resources, deciding for our public, I want to sit in,” he told The New York Times last month.

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