Election’s unlikely kingmaker calls for new page in Arab-Jewish cooperation

“I came to faithfully represent an entire public that counts for more than 20% of the public in the state,” he said.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

In a much anticipated speech by the most unlikely of Israeli kingmakers, Mansour Abbas of the Arab Islamist Ra’am party said on Thursday evening that he didn’t want to be part of any bloc, neither Right nor Left.

At the same time, he said he extends his hand to any and all who want to start a fresh page in Arab-Israeli cooperation “based on mutual respect and equality.”

“The State of Israel is changing its face and refusing to open its eyes. We don’t need to agree on everything – but we must give our children the opportunity to know each other,” Abbas said.

“My attitude is what’s possible, and less what’s not. I came to faithfully represent an entire public that counts for more than 20% of the public in the state,” he added.

Those who expected Abbas to announce which bloc he was throwing his support behind were disappointed.

Fellow party member Taleb el-Sana tried to manage expectations prior to the speech, telling Channel 11 News that Abbas would not make declare support for either side, though his harsh words for the incumbent suggested it would not be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “No one believes Netanyahu. I don’t know if he believes himself,” el-Sana said.

However, early reports said Abbas was leaning toward Netanyahu over the opposition parties as a right-wing government would be more stable and better able to deliver on promises made to his Arab constituency.

Abbas split from the Joint List in January, an Arab faction made up of four parties, including Ra’am. The break centered over the disagreement about whether Arab-Israeli parties should join Israeli governments. The traditional position of Arab-Israeli parties was to remain without in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

Abbas argued such a position was passé and hurt the constituents they purported to represent.

Abbas, who led Ra’am, couldn’t convince other members of the Joint List and decided to strike out on his own. The decision appears to have been a wise one as he’s potentially in a position to choose Israel’s next governing coalition.

Although Ra’am is willing to drop talk of the Palestinian cause, it still supports a Palestinian state established in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.

Another Netanyahu coalition partner, the Religious Zionism party, says it will refuse to sit in a government supported by Ra’am, whether it’s in the government or supporting it from without. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a leading member of the party, has repeatedly said that Abbas supports the terror group Hamas.

Nonetheless, both sides of Israel’s political aisle are courting Abbas.

Shortly after his talk, Merav Michaeli, leader of the Labor party, urged him to join the anti-Netanyahu bloc. “Come with us so that together, we will be able to change reality,” she said.