A hard look at Israel’s United Arab List, ‘ideological brother to Hamas’

Could the Right form a government with the support of a Hamas-supporting, anti-Zionist party?

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Could a right-wing government be created based on the support of a rabidly anti-Zionist party?

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc gaining only 52 seats in the March elections, speculation is rife as to which parties may be tempted to join his consortium.

Many pundits assume that Naftali Bennett will ultimately come back into the fold, as his Yamina party is a natural fit ideologically and Bennett never joined the pre-election, anti-Netanyahu chorus. Yet that only brings seven more seats to the table, leaving the coalition two shy of a majority.

Attention has therefore turned to another faction whose leader coyly said he would join coalition talks with almost any party – Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am, which gained five mandates from its Arab constituents. Ra’am’s platform, however, seems out of sync with the beliefs of even the left-wing Jewish parties, let alone the right end of the political spectrum.

The party is the political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement, whose charter calls for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish country in two ways: By giving all Palestinian refugees and their descendants the right of return into Israel along with establishing a Palestinian state or by creating a single, binational state.

The Movement’s hostile attitude to the Jewish state is clearly stated.

“The State of Israel was born of the racist, occupying Zionist project; iniquitous Western and British imperialism; and the debasement and feebleness of the Arab and Islamic [nations]. We do not absolve ourselves, the Palestinian people, of our responsibility and our failure to confront this project,” the charter says.

Although it says its “most important goal” is to advance Palestinian Arab society by preserving its identity and enabling it to “achieve its rights in civil, national and religious spheres,” it admits that its participation in Israeli political life is also “an attempt… to aid our Palestinian cause, and to clash with the proposals and policies and programs of the Zionist project from within the heart of the state institutions.”

Abbas smartly focused his campaign on practical and social issues facing the Arab community in Israel, such as the need for expanded budgets to fight the rampant crime and violence plaguing the sector, instead of on the ideology that motivates the party.

He gave a very conciliatory-sounding speech carried live by every major television channel. He ignored the Palestinian cause completely while speaking of the need to “give us and our children the opportunity, the right, to understand one another.”

Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University told Channel 20 Friday that Abbas’ address “was meant to lull the Jewish Israeli viewer to sleep and prepare the ground … [so that] the state will legitimize the [Islamic] Movement, which sees the state as an entity that has no right to exist,” he said.

“Mansour Abbas is an ideological brother to Hamas,” he said, warning that Abbas would demand that Israel sit down with the terrorist organization as a condition for Ra’am joining the government. “Israeli politicians prefer their personal interests over national interests,” he added. “It’s a deterioration of Israeli politics to the point where it gives up the nation’s country.”

Abbas’ chances of actually closing a deal with Netanyahu do seem poor overall, because Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich completely opposes the idea, and without his faction’s six seats there can be no coalition. He has made it clear numerous times since the election that he would veto Ra’am outright.

“A government supported by Ra’am would be a generational disaster and we will not allow it to happen,” he said in a Facebook post on Friday. “Abbas is and has remained a terror supporter who visits and hugs Jew-killing terrorists and does not accept the right of the Jewish people to exist as a nation in its Jewish state.”