Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am (United Arab List) party has delivered a list of demands to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett before his faction is willing to return to Israel’s coalition government.
Abbas announced a “temporary freeze” of his party’s participation in the Knesset and the government in response to an order from the party’s backing Shura Council of the Southern Islamic Movement.
The move came following days of efforts by Israeli security personnel to quell Arab violence – particularly on the Temple Mount – linked to the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Party members claimed that Jews triggered the Arab riots on the Temple Mount with “provocations” – the daily three-hour period allowed Jews for visits to one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
The “temporary freeze,” initially intended to last two weeks, is now “until further notice,” Abbas said, hinting that the party might entirely withdraw from the coalition. Such a move could lead to the fall of the Bennett-Lapid government when the Knesset returns from recess on May 9.
To avoid such a scenario, Abbas said, the government must agree to the following demands, according to Israel’s Channel 12 News:
- A commitment to maintaining the status quo in the Al Aqsa Mosque (on the Temple Mount) and the holy places, and preventing prayer by Jews in the Temple Mount plazas;
- An agreed outline for the implementation of the five-year economic plan for Arab society – within a year;
- Formulation of a plan to implement government decisions in the Negev (including an allocation of NIS 30 million / $9.27 million) for Israeli Arab communities, and acceleration of recognition for approved Bedouin villages (currently unrecognized) ;
- A written commitment to provide solutions to issues that are being held up in the Interior Ministry headed by Minister Ayelet Shaked, among them a housing crisis in Arab towns;
- Increasing the law enforcement operation to collect illegal weapons in Arab society.
Abbas threatened Monday in an interview with Israel’s KAN News public broadcaster that if there is no change in Israel’s policies on the Temple Mount, the “temporary freeze” could become permanent, and Ra’am could pull its four seats from the government.
The carrot, he said, would be “If the reality changes and the policies change, this freeze will also change.”
Abbas originally said in an interview with Channel N12 News this past weekend that he had been working with all sides to try and calm the situation on the Temple Mount, after the first violence broke out Friday.
“The pictures from the Aqsa compound (ed: Arabs consider the entire Temple Mount compound to be part of the Al Aqsa Mosque property) were extremely, extremely difficult,” he said. “It doesn’t matter now how it started or how it ended. We are working and calling for calm and to give the place the respect it deserves, and to allow people to pray in peace.”
Clearly Abbas does not extend that basic courtesy to Jews. However it was the Israeli government that first set this “status quo” precedent when supervision and control over the site was handed over to the Jordanian Islamic Waqf Authority, soon after its capture from Jordanian occupation.