Senior Islamic Movement official urges Ra’am to quit coalition: ‘Do it for Al-Aqsa’

Sheikh Mohammad Salameh Hassan issues call in wake of Temple Mount clashes; TV report says party’s leader facing ‘heavy pressure’ to yank support for government

Palestinians flash victory signs beneath the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinians flash victory signs beneath the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A senior religious figure in the Southern Islamic Movement called on Sunday for its political branch to bolt the government coalition in the wake of clashes between Palestinians and police on the Temple Mount.

Ra’am denounced Israeli security forces over the violence at the Jerusalem holy site, and one of the Islamist party’s lawmakers has threatened to quit the coalition. Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas, however, has downplayed such a prospect and issued repeated calls for calm.

“Resign immediately from the coalition that is attacking our holy sites in Palestine,” Sheikh Mohammad Salameh Hassan wrote on Facebook.

“Do it for Al-Aqsa,” he added, referring to the mosque atop the Temple Mount.

It was not immediately clear what traction the comments would have in Ra’am, the Islamist party that made history last year when it entered the government coalition, which is currently teetering on the brink of collapse.

Hassan’s comments came shortly after fresh clashes in and around the Temple Mount on Sunday, though at a far smaller scale than the violent skirmishes there on Friday following Ramadan morning prayers. The site is the third-holiest in Islam and holiest in Judaism.

Senior Islamic Movement officials gather in Kfar Qasim on Saturday, January 22, 2022, to elect new leadership. (Courtesy: Islamic Movement)

Hassan was defeated earlier this year in a vote to choose the Islamic Movement’s new spiritual leader. He was considered to represent a more traditional approach, referring to Israel’s government as an “occupation government” and calling all Israelis “settlers.”

The candidate who won is considered close to Abbas and shares his worldview.

Founded in the 1980s, the Islamic Movement has been thrust into the spotlight over the past year after Ra’am joined the coalition government, the first Arab party to do so in decades.

The movement is informally divided between its more radical “northern” branch and the “southern” leadership, which is considered more moderate. Israel banned the northern branch for alleged terror ties in 2015.

In contrast to some of his firebrand predecessors, Abbas has adopted a pragmatic approach.

A senior Ra’am official told Channel 13 news on Sunday that Abbas is facing “heavy pressure” internally to quit the coalition.

Ra’am MK Mansour Abbas speaks in the Knesset plenum, on January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The current Israeli government has been brought to the brink of collapse in recent days after a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party quit the coalition, causing it to lose its razor-thin majority. The 120-member Knesset is now deadlocked, with both the coalition and opposition comprising 60 seats apiece.

Some have suggested that the opposition’s Joint List, a majority Arab party that is separate from Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition bloc, could help the coalition pass some votes. The party itself has issued conflicting messages on the matter.

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