We started to write one post this evening after watching what looked like an historic speech by Mansour Abbas (Ra’am party). It looked historic in terms of what he said, and just as importantly, in what he omitted.
In tonight’s speech, Masour Abbas didn’t turn into a Zionist (and we certainly didn’t hear the words Jewish State come out of his mouth, and the flag behind him wasn’t the Israeli flag, but the Islamic movement’s flag). But he declared himself a citizen of Israel and declared that his party has more interests in common than they do differences with potential coalition members, and he is looking for coexistence and to create a better future for his constituency.
He notably didn’t mention any nonsense about “Palestinians” and that could have also been a major shift and indicator.
But then we saw a video of a speech Mansour Abbas gave just 4 days ago.
In that speech – in Arabic – (to paraphrase) he talked about his party representing the Palestinians and survivors of the Naqba and how it will keep working to strengthen the connection and presence, and so on.
מנסור עבאס בנאום בפני חברי רע”מ לפני כארבעה ימים מזכיר שרע”מ פועלת בשם ‘החברה הערבית הפלסטינית ניצולת הנכבה’ ומדבר על המטרה העליונה:
לחזק את החברה הערבית כחלק מ”האומה הערבית האסלאמית”.
זוהי האידאולוגיה של התנועה האסלאמית: שילוב בחברה בה הם חיים וקידום המטרה. קחו את זה מכאן pic.twitter.com/vaMfRChqsE
— אסף גבור assaf gibor (@assafgibor) April 1, 2021
Which Mansour Abbas do we believe?
Is Ra’am a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and Netanyahu is selling out the Right and Israel to an anti-Israel Islamist Arab party in order to form a coalition?
In the long term, this would be a dangerous shift for the Jewish State, leading us down the road to a “state of all its citizens” and limiting what Israel can do legislatively and security-wise, in order to not upset this key coalition partner in areas that are sensitive to them.
There’s no doubt from Abbas’s words this evening that he would prefer to see Israel as a state of all its citizens, on the other hand, he also made it clear that what concerns right him now are practical issues and solving the real day-to-day problems facing his community.
Bezalel Smotrich and party are legitimately upset that the coalition that might form will be reliant on the support of the Ra’am party.
First, because Ra’am members have voiced support for the bad guys in the past (but not like the Balad party which actually aided and abetted the enemy in wartime) along with all their other anti-Israel and pro-Islamist statements, of which there are plenty to choose from, but also because the coalition’s existence is going to be reliant on an Islamic party that does not recognize the state as a Jewish state and all those shared values.
The other way to see this is that this is a genuine move coming from a significant segment of Arab society that finally wants to move forward and view itself (and be viewed) as contributing and participating member of Israeli society, and is acting out of practical interests, even if it disagrees on ideological grounds.
Neither perspective is mutually exclusive.
This could be a major moderating and integrating step for Arab society in Israel, and at the same time be a real threat to the Jewishness of the Jewish state.
It’s certainly dangerous for the coalition to be reliant on an Islamic party when (not if) certain situations will happen which will create a conflict between the parties – the most obvious looming examples are the Bedouin situation in the Negev and the PA land-grab in Judea and Samaria – two major issues that must be dealt with quickly.
But practically speaking, there aren’t too many realistic options on the table right now that don’t lead to a fifth election.
Optimally, the best situation is if Sa’ar climbs down from his tree, unites with Bennett and Smotrich, and they squeeze the kishkes out of Netanyahu and form a stable rightwing government. At that point, Ra’am can support from the outside with no risk to Israel, and everyone benefits.
But I don’t see Sa’ar climbing down from his tree.
Option 2 is Bennett and Smotrich join Netanyahu. Netanyahu pulls two MK from the opposition to his side, and forms a stable coalition. And again Ra’am can support from the outside with no risk to Israel, and everyone benefits. Netanyahu has claimed he’s got the two, if Bennett joins him.
Option 3 is similar, but it is Gantz’s party that joins after Bennett. Not great, but the most likely scenario at the moment.
And as some people keep wishing and hoping, Netanyahu might eventually step aside, perhaps get appointed as Israel’s next President, and then Sa’ar can join the coalition with the Likud. But we don’t see Netanyahu stepping aside. It’s not in his DNA.
But we also don’t see Lapid or Bennett being able to form a stable coalition. That would involve absolutely opposing ideological opponents sitting together, with the only common goal being the unseating of Netanyahu, and once that’s done, that unstable coalition will quickly disintegrate, because there’s nothing else they agree on.
And as Saar and Bennett both know, anyone in the right in that coalition would be in the minority.
Ultimately Smotrich is right, if the coalition can only be formed with Ra’am.
But if they weren’t necessary to form the coalition, and this became a step towards better coexistence, then that could be something that needs to be explored.
Still, it’s a shame a Zionistic Arab party didn’t get in – because there are Zionistic Arabs, and that’s a sector that needs to be developed.