Rebranding? ‘I’m an Arab Palestinian,’ says Arab party head

“My identity is very clear: I am Arab-Palestinian,” Mansour Abbas said, distancing himself from any identification with the State of Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

The head of the Islamist Ra’am party, which made history as the first Arab party to be part of an Israeli government coalition, said during a recent interview that he identifies as an Arab Palestinian and distanced himself from the idea that he could identify with the State of Israel.

While speaking to reporters from Yediot Ahronot, Mansour Abbas said he was pained by the recent conflict with Gaza, which saw Israel eliminate targets affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terror group.

When asked if he was pained by the bombing of the Strip, Abbas said, “Of course. There is no doubt. My identity is very clear: I am Arab-Palestinian.”

He added that he wants the “Palestinian people to accept their right to self-determination and realize their potential and establish their state next to the State of Israel.”

Abbas’ declaration of his Arab Palestinian identity is significant, as he has traditionally portrayed himself as a citizen of Israel interested in building a better future for the Jewish State. He has made a number of comments in the past aimed at easing the Israeli public’s fears around his reportedly Hamas-linked party becoming part of a governing coalition.

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“Israel was born a Jewish state, that was the decision of the people, and the question is not what is the identity of the state — it was born this way and it will remain this way,” Abbas said at a conference in December 2021.

Upon becoming the coalition kingmaker after the April 2021 elections, Abbas declared that he prioritized “mutual respect and cooperation” between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.

The MK also told Yediot Ahronot that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had courted the Ra’am party, a claim he has made before as well.

Though Netanyahu was wary of formally including Ra’am in a coalition, mostly due to opposition from Religious Zionism head Betzalel Smotrich, the-then premier repeatedly engaged in negotiations to enlist Ra’am’s external support, Abbas said.

Abbas met with Netanyahu at his Balfour residence while the May 2021 Israel-Gaza clash Operation Guardian of the Walls raged, the MK said.

“The negotiations were aimed at preventing the establishment of the new government,” Abbas said. “During Operation Guardian of the Walls, I maintained direct contact with Netanyahu. I participated in three meetings in Balfour during the operation.”