Arab Ra’am party backing away from support for Netanyahu

Senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party says it looks like they are heading to be in the opposition.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of the Islamist United Arab List (Ra’am) said Tuesday he will not support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unless the Religious Zionism party takes back accusations that Ra’am supports terrorism.

In an interview on Channel 12 News, Mansour Abbas lashed out at Religious Zionism party chairman Bezalel Smotrich, saying “whoever disqualifies us, we will disqualify him.” Smotrich and his party, part of a Netanyahu-led coalition of religious and right-wing parties, repeatedly has said that Ra’am has no place in the government.

Abbas had previously indicated he could support a Netanyahu-led coaltion government, but only if Smotrich stopped his attacks on Israel’s Arabs.

“He (Smotrich) has to withdraw the accusations, otherwise we have no other way,” Abbas told Channel 12. “We will not accept such a situation where we are accused of supporting terrorism. We have come to represent Arab society.”

“Anyone who tries to sabotage our efforts for the benefit of all the citizens of the country – and the Arab citizens of the country in particular – will either meet us in the courts or find us against him,” Abbas said. “We have been saying this already for eight months, we are not in anybody’s pocket.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu, seeing his ability to form a government evaporating, pushed the idea of introducing a new law to allow a special direct election just for prime minister. He also backed away from his initial courting of Ra’am.

“We don’t need Ra’am,” Netanyahu said at a press conference. “We need direct elections so that we can form a government.”

Smotrich doubled down on his opposition to Abbas, launching a harsh campaign against him Wednesday on social media.

“On the Right and left, there is zero legitimacy to form a government with terrorist supporters. When the masks come off every sane person understands this,” Smotrich tweeted. His posting included a video listing when Abbas visited known terrorists and quoting Abbas saying last year that in the current reality Arabs could not stage an armed “jihad” against Israel, so instead “we are engaged in a civilian jihad.”

Ra’am is an Islamist party and political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement, an organization inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to its charter, obtained by The Times of Israel, it considers Israel to be “a racist, occupying” power to which “there can be no allegiance.”

“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.

Ra’am has attempted to make itself more palatable as a government partner by not voicing the ideas contained in its charter and instead focusing on bread-and-butter issues like crime, housing and tangible benefits to its constitutents.

With only two weeks left in his mandate to form a government, a senior Likud legislator admitted that the odds of Netanyahu staying in power were slipping away.

“We realize that we’re on the way to opposition. The leader of the opposition will be Benjamin Netanyahu,” Likud Knesset member Miki Zohar said during a committee meeting earlier this week.