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Renegade Arab MK doesn’t rule out backing Netanyahu for PM after election

Mansour Abbas indicates he’ll offer his support in the coalition-building process to the candidate that responds best to his demands

Mansour Abbas of the Ra'am party holds a press conference after a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on April 16, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Mansour Abbas of the Ra'am party holds a press conference after a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on April 16, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

An Arab lawmaker who broke away from the alliance of Arab parties does not rule out supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other right-wing politicians after the elections.

“We aren’t committed to anyone, not to Benjamin Netanyahu or Yair Lapid or Gideon Sa’ar or Naftali Bennett. We are committed to the Arab community,” MK Mansour Abbas told Channel 13 in an interview Sunday. “Those who want Ra’am’s support must contact us and offer things, and respond to Ra’am’s demands and then we can proceed.

“First, we’ll finish with the elections, there will be results, and then we’ll discuss the questions and challenges that we face,” said Abbas, without elaborating further.

In a sign of the widening cracks in Arab Israeli politics, Abbas was heckled, jeered and chased away by demonstrators at a massive community protest on Friday.

Abbas had sought to join the thousands of demonstrators in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm protesting against what they called the police’s failure to stem a rising tide of violence in Arab communities — only to be rebuffed by dozens of demonstrators calling for him to “get out.”

After some scuffles, Abbas’s aides removed him from the scene.

Abbas told Channel 13 that Public Security Minister Amir Ohana of Netanyahu’s Likud party and Economy Minister Amir Peretz called him after the incident. “I received phone calls and they expressed solidarity,” he said.

Abbas, who leads the conservative Islamist Ra’am party, has long made passing a plan to fight violence and organized crime among Arab Israelis a central legislative priority.

Abbas told Channel 12 that those who accosted him were political activists from the Joint List party and not residents of Umm al-Fahm.

He has sparked controversy among Arab Israelis due to his stated willingness to cross previously unthinkable red lines, such as voting to grant Netanyahu immunity from prosecution and perhaps even to prop up his future coalition.

He also caused anger when he pulled his Ra’am party out of the Joint List coalition of predominantly Arab parties.

The move has seen the Joint List, which won an unprecedented 15 seats in the last elections, now polling at around 8 seats.

Meanwhile, Ra’am is hovering around the electoral threshold, passing with 4 seats in some polls and failing to do so in others. If the party does make it into parliament, its leader has refused to say who it might endorse for prime minister.

Abbas has said that in order to advance legislative priorities for the Arab community, he would even consider voting in favor of a law providing Netanyahu with immunity from prosecution in his corruption cases, or serve as a minister in a Likud-led government.

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