Surprise ally? Arab lawmaker defends Jewish settlers

Islamist politician slams coalition partner for “generalizing” about settlers.

By World Israel News Staff

Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria received support on Thursday morning from a surprising figure, after Interior Minister Omer Bar-Lev’s statements that he had discussed settler violence with an American senior diplomat sparked ire among Israel’s right-wing lawmakers.

Coalition kingmaker and chair of the Islamist Ra’am party, Mansour Abbas, appeared to echo criticism against Bar-Lev in a statement to Hebrew language radio station Kan Bet.

“It’s forbidden to make generalizations about any sector of the public,” Abbas said, “not about settlers, not about the ultra-Orthodox, and not about Arabs. The discourse in the Knesset is [too] violent, and MKs don’t think twice about attacking the other side.”

Right-wing parties have faced criticism for partnering with Abbas and his Ra’am party, as reports indicate that the Islamist party may have ties to terror group Hamas.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made numerous attempts to woo the Ra’am party into a coalition, but negotiations were cut off after the Religious Zionism party refused to entertain the idea.

Abbas’ bitter political rival and one-time party colleague, MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List, was incensed by the statement.

“This is a scandalous statement by an Arab MK,” Tibi told Reshet Bet.

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“The presence of settlers in the Occupied Territories is a crime under international law, and settlers who steal land or physically harm Palestinians or establish settlements do so with violence and [criminal] force.”

Bar-Lev’s tweet on Tuesday that he had discussed settler violence with Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland triggered angry responses from right-wing politicians, including his coalition partners Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, both of the Yamina party.

“You’re confused,” Shaked wrote to Bar-Lev on Twitter.

“What should shock us are the daily incidents in which stones and Molotov cocktails are thrown at Jews — just because they are Jews — with the support of the Palestinian Authority.”

But Bar-Lev doubled down on his comments, saying that those offended by his remarks needed to calm down “and drink a glass of water.”