Ra’am party chairman MK Mansour Abbas has called for Palestinian terror groups to demilitarize and work with the Palestinian Authority in order to establish a Palestinian state through non-violent means.
“In order to move forward, the Palestinian militant groups need to throw down their arms. They need to work hand in hand with the Palestinian Authority in order to realize a national movement that will aspire for a state of Palestine in a peaceful solution alongside the state of Israel,” Abbas told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a rare interview with international media released Thursday.
On Saturday, Ra’am issued a clarification in an apparent effort to soften that statement, saying Abbas had meant that “the Palestinian state that will arise will negate the arming of Palestinian factions.”
Abbas, whose Islamist Ra’am party was the first independent Arab-majority faction to join an Israeli coalition — the 2021-2022 Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government — began the interview by reiterating his condemnation of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which saw some thousands of terrorists burst across the border, kill some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seize over 240 hostages.
“Any action that is taken against innocent people — against women, children, elderly — is inhumane and it goes against the values of Islam as well. We categorically condemn this. This cannot be discussed or cannot be justified because it goes against all human values and religious values as well,” he said.
“At the same time, we cannot forget that there is a political struggle that is happening,” Abbas continued.
“But the actions that the armed groups have decided to take and to use violence in order to achieve their means, looking at the past, have always failed. The victim of each and every one of those militant attempts have been the Palestinian people who were the ones who paid the price. In this current conflict, we look at the number of people killed — we’re talking about over 15,000 Palestinians who lost their lives,” he lamented.
The statement issued Saturday by Abbas was condemned far-right coalition leaders.
“Not everyone is surprised by Abbas’s remarks. The people of Israel have woken up and know well who is on their side and who supports and sides with their enemies,” tweeted Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that over 15,000 people people have been killed in Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, though these numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include both civilians and terror operatives killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.
Israel says the aim of the offensive is to eliminate Hamas and its infrastructure, and to secure the return of the hostages believed held in the Strip.
Fighting resumed in Gaza Friday after a seven-day temporary truce that saw 105 hostages released from Gaza, including 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino, in exchange for 210 Palestinian prisoners, all of them women or minors. Israel also allowed an influx of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
The Ra’am party leader has been vocal since the October 7 attacks in condemning the acts of terrorism while cautioning Arab Israeli citizens to cool internal tensions, amid several isolated incidents of internal cross-community violence and intimidation.
“To those in the Arab community, citizens as well as leaders, I say today emphatically, we are, first of all, obligated to reject fringe extremist elements that try to put us on a collision course with the state, its security institutions and its Jewish citizens,” he wrote in an op-ed published by The Times of Israel in October. “We must choose to act with wisdom and responsibility. This is imperative for the public good as well as the future vision for us as a Palestinian Arab society and as citizens of the State of Israel. ”
Abbas also demanded that party MK Iman Khatib-Yasin resign following remarks she made casting doubt on some elements of the October 7 massacres by Hamas. Khatib-Yasin apologized but has not quit.
In terms of what will happen in Gaza after toppling Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government have been vague.
In early November the premier told Fox News that Israel does not want to re-occupy or govern the Strip, though he also told ABC News that Israel will have “overall security responsibility” over the Gaza Strip “for an indefinite period” after the war against Hamas ends.
The same week he told the mayors of Gaza border towns that the IDF will remain in control of the Gaza Strip after the current war ends, rather than relying on international forces to oversee security along the border.
US officials have raised the possibility in recent weeks that an international force, possibly with troops from neighboring Arab allies, could manage security in the Strip for an interim period until it can be returned to a functioning Palestinian government, which Washington hopes will be the Palestinian Authority.
However, two Arab diplomats told The Times of Israel this week that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has become a “liability,” contributing to reluctance from Arab leaders to fully cooperate with the Biden administration’s strategy for a post-war Gaza.
The 87-year-old president has been plagued by longstanding corruption allegations, and likely isn’t capable of reuniting the West Bank with Gaza under the PA, the diplomatic sources said.