Ra’am empowered Arab society in Israel, will help Palestinian cause, says party chief

Ra’am party takes credit for bringing ‘tens of thousands’ of Gazans to work in Israel.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As election campaigns get underway, Ra’am head Mansour Abbas has begun burnishing his party’s pro-Palestinian credentials, telling Arabic-language Nasradio that it is to their credit that so many Gazans can work in Israel now, Israel National News reported Monday.

In the interview, Abbas defended his party’s groundbreaking participation in the coalition over the past year by noting how it had benefited both Arab Israelis and Palestinians.

“This government managed to improve certain relations in less than a year, with the Palestinian Authority, with the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Tens of thousands of workers… enter [Israel] and return [to the Gaza Strip] with their livelihood and improve their living conditions, but we are also creating a dynamic of change in the [government’s] basic political positions, and this takes time.”

In addition, “The United Arab List (Ra’am) succeeded in strengthening and empowering our Arab society in Israel, and at the end this will benefit the Palestinian issue.”

Ra’am received tens of billions of shekels in government budgets for economic and job development, infrastructure and housing for Arab towns, and fighting rampant crime in the Arab sector after joining the Bennett-Lapid coalition last year.

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As head of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, Abbas noted that his organization “serves the Palestinian people” by directly supporting issues such as “the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

During the violent Palestinian riots on the Temple Mount in May, Abbas demanded a return to the “status quo” – meaning that Jews should be prohibited from praying at their holiest site – and threatened to leave the coalition otherwise.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, remains firmly opposed to Abbas, although Ra’am had temporarily suspended its participation in the coalition at the time. The terrorist group’s leader Yihye Sinwar called the Ra’am chief a traitor nonetheless.

“That you serve as a support to this government which violates Al-Aqsa is an unforgivable crime,” Sinwar said. “The fact that you are acting as a security blanket for this government is a crime for which you will never be forgiven. You are rejecting your religion, your Arab identity and your national identity.”

Ra’am’s party platform has Islamism as a central tenet and includes the demand for a Palestinian state in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas endeared himself to many Israelis when at a conference last December, he said, “The State of Israel was born as a Jewish state. That’s the people’s decision and the question is not about the identity of the state. It was born that way and that’s how it will remain.”

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Sinwar was scathing in his denouncement of that statement as well, saying, “For an Arab to say that this is a Jewish state is the height of degeneracy.”