Head of Arab party denies Joint List on verge of breaking up

Head of Ra’am Party rejects news report his party will quit the Joint Arab List, says his goal is to strengthen the Arab vote.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of one of the four factions in the predominantly Arab Joint List on Monday rejected a report the list is about to break up ahead of expected Israeli elections.

Mansour Abbas denied a report by Channel 12 News that speculated his Ra’am (United Arab List) Party would run independently if two proposals he sponsored are passed in the Knesset this week that are considered significant to Arab society: the removal of barriers to construction in the Arab sector and a plan to eradicate the high level of crime among the Arab population.

Channel 12 surmised that those achievements would prompt Abbas to take Ra’am and bolt the Joint List to run on their own.

Abbas rejected the allegation, saying right-wing parties in the Knesset had repeatedly tried to break apart the Joint List to try and weaken Arab representation.

“They failed to dismantle us. If it’s up to me, Mansour Abbas and Ra’am, we want to strengthen the Joint List, but tell the members that the way to strengthen the Joint List is to change direction, to try to adopt the approach of MK Mansour Abbas,” he said in an interview with 103 FM radio in Tel Aviv.

Members of the three other parties in the Joint List – Hadash, Ta’al and Balad – criticized Abbas last week when the four Ra’am members did not vote in the no-confidence motion calling for new elections, accusing Abbas of trying to prop up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Everyone, and not just Mansour, is convinced that we should not dissolve the Knesset nor dismantle this relatively diverse government,” Abbas said.

Abbas, a dentist from the town of Maghar in the Galilee, is a relative newcomer to the Knesset who was elected in the first of the string of three elections in April, 2019.

“Since I entered the Knesset I have been looking for a new way to make a change, Arab society demands it. I am loyal to the public who elected me. I have no other hopes, I do not want to change reality,” Abbas said.

Instead of breaking up the Arab List, Abbas said Arab legislators “must behave in Israeli politics as a factor that has meaning and a role.”

The other three parties were angered by Abbas’ failure to reject the possibility of joining a government under Netanyahu. Abbas told the interviewers that “when an offer comes, we will examine it and consider it in the interest of Arab society.”

Abbas emphasized that he tells the other members of the Joint List they should “not be in anyone’s pocket. We will not let Netanyahu use us nor will we let [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz.”

“The one who runs the country and will probably run the country is Netanyahu and his government,” Abbas admitted. “Let’s get out of the game of right and left, Israeli society has chosen this political system, let’s run in front of the whole system both right and left and not be suckers for anybody.”

The Arab Joint List was formed five years ago after right-wing politicians passed a law raising the vote threshold that would have eliminated small parties from the Knesset including the four predominantly Arab parties. To ensure they would be represented in parliament, the four parties united to run as a single list, resulting in the list gaining 15 seats, the most ever.