Mansour Abbas: Ra’am will be part of the coalition

If negotiations are successful, this would be the first time an Arab Islamist party is officially part of an Israeli government.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As Yesh Atid raced Tuesday to close deals with more partners to form a coalition by Wednesday night’s deadline, Ra’am head Mansour Abbas told the press outside the negotiations room that he believes his Islamist party will be part of the government.

“I’m optimistic,” he said as he headed into the meeting at Kfar Maccabiah in the late afternoon. “I’ll be part of the coalition – but it’s impossible to say that it’s a closed deal until it’s closed. We’re going in the right direction.”

Ra’am still has several demands that will be hard to reconcile with either the left- or right-wing parties in the proposed unity government.

The Left would find it hard to swallow the conservative religious party’s insistence that there be no official support for the LGBT community in the coalition agreement. The Right would have to give up the Kaminetz Law, an amendment to the Planning and Building Law passed in 2017 that cracked down on illegal construction, which is rampant in the Arab sector.

According to Haaretz, Abbas is also reportedly demanding that a Ra’am MK be appointed deputy interior minister. Among other things, this ministry allocates budgets to municipalities and local councils throughout the state. This could be a rich resource for Arab towns and villages, many of which suffer from severe budget shortfalls. The report said that Ayelet Shaked of Yemina, the likely incoming Interior Minister, completely opposes the idea.

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If Ra’am signs on, it will be the first time in Israel’s history that an Arab Islamist list will be part of an Israeli government. The first two coalitions formed after Israel’s independence contained the Nazareth Democratic Party, a minority list that was associated with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s leading Mapai Party.

Until now, the thought was that the most Ra’am could achieve was a massive increase in budget for the Arab sector and some powerful Knesset committee positions in exchange for supporting a minority government from the outside. This was certainly true when the Likud was wooing Abbas in an attempt to form a right-wing-religious government that could not reach 61 seats of the 120-seat Knesset.

However, the Religious Zionist Party nixed the idea of relying on an Arab party that supports the right of return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel, which would effectively destroy the Jewish state. Ra’am’s platform also includes the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the dismantling of the settlements in Judea and Samaria.