Leading Arab lawmaker: ‘Israel will forever be a Jewish state’

MK Mansour Abbas’ remarks are a significant departure from previous Arab parties’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The chair of the Islamist Ra’am party, said on Tuesday that Israel is undeniably a Jewish country, and that it will always stay that way.

“Israel was born a Jewish state, that was the decision of the people, and the question is not what is the identity of the state — it was born this way and it will remain this way,” said MK Mansour Abbas at a Channel 12 media conference on Tuesday morning.

“The question is what is the status of the Arab citizen in the Jewish State of Israel,” he continued. “That is the question. And this challenge does not just stand in front of Mansour Abbas, but in front of the Jewish community and the Jewish citizen.”

Abbas’ statement is particularly notable because it marks a significant departure from Israeli Arab political parties’ staunch refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State and that such a definition is inherently racist.

In June 2021, Abbas made history by signing a coalition agreement with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party and the Yesh Atid party chaired by Yair Lapid, cementing his role as a political kingmaker and marking the first time that an Arab party had served in an Israeli government.

Some on Israel’s right have criticized Bennett for partnering with Ra’am, as rumors swirl around the party’s possible links to the Hamas terror group.

Abbas has made multiple statements which have positioned Ra’am as an alternative to the aggressively anti-Zionist Arab Joint List.

Last week, Abbas jumped into the fray and defended residents of Judea and Samaria after Internal Security Minister Omer Bar Lev’s remarks about settler violence sparked ire.

“It’s forbidden to make generalizations about any sector of the public,” he told radio station Kan Bet, “not about settlers, not about the ultra-Orthodox, and not about Arabs. The discourse in the Knesset is [too] violent, and MKs don’t think twice about attacking the other side.”

In April 2021, a group of lawmakers from the Joint List used the swearing-in ceremony for members of Israel’s 24th Knesset as an opportunity to call Israel an apartheid state.

When it came time for Samy Abu Shehadeh to recite the standard “I pledge” promise, in which lawmakers swear to uphold their duties as an elected official of the state of Israel, the avowed anti-Zionist lawmaker put his own twist on the text.

Instead of pledging to serve Israel, Abu Shehadeh said, “I pledge to fight the occupation” and “I pledge to fight apartheid.” Several other members of the Joint List followed suit.