Arab-Israeli kingmaker leaning toward Netanyahu, source says

It’s unclear if Netanyahu’s right wing partners – especially the Religious Zionism party – will agree to Abbas’ demands.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Mansour Abbas, the head of the Islamic Ra’am party who has emerged as an unlikely kingmaker after Israel’s fourth round of inconclusive elections, is reportedly leaning towards supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and lending his party’s backing to Netanyahu’s bloc.

While Netanyahu repeatedly ruled out cooperation with Ra’am during his campaign, as recently as three days before Election Day he appeared to be rethinking his position.

The report said that Abbas would make his decision after meeting with veteran Likud MK and current Knesset speaker Yariv Levin.

He’s set to make a public announcement in Hebrew on Thursday, in which he’ll likely reveal whether he’ll join the so-called “change bloc” or the pro-Netanyahu bloc.

A senior Ra’am official gave some insight to the party leader’s thinking to Israel Hayom on Wednesday, saying that the decision to support Netanyahu is partly based on the fact that the opposition has no serious candidate for prime minister and a Netanyahu bloc “will be more stable and will help us achieve the goals we have set for Arab society.”

In the meantime, Abbas is keeping his options open, meeting with Blue and White head Benny Gantz, Labor leader Merav Michaeli, and Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid.

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Although Abbas is allegedly leaning towards Netanyahu, he told Israel Hayom that his main concern was partnering with whichever candidate could best support the Arab community.

“We are willing to speak with anyone who accepts our principles and who will provide what we demand. There is a lot to do and to deal with in Arab society,” he said.

“First and foremost, the rising crime – and that is what our voters expect of us. That is why we received our Knesset seats and the faith of the public who voted for us.”

In exchange for the party’s support, Ra’am is demanding that the government amend the Nation-State law, repeal the Kaminitz Law, and agree to provide funding for eradicating crime in Arab Israeli towns.

Talk of a Ra’am-supported Netanyahu government may not be possible given the statements by Ra’am about another Netanyahu partner, the Religious Zionism party.

According to a report from Kan News on Tuesday, a senior Ra’am party official said that while Abbas would be willing to join a coalition with Netanyahu, Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir could not serve as a minister in the government.

The feeling’s mutual. The chairman of the Religious Zionist Party, Betzalel Smotrich, said last week, “A right-wing government will not be formed based on Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am. Period. Not from the inside, not from the outside, not through abstention, and not on any other Israbluff.”