Remember the finger-pointing at the Bennett-Lapid government for collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood party, Ra’am? Well, according to News12 reporter Daphne Liel, Likud Justice Minister Yariv Levin and the chairman of that Muslim Brotherhood party, Mansour Abbas, are in negotiations to get Ra’am’s support for the judicial reform. The initial contacts between Likud and Ra’am were reported by News13 about a month ago, and continued since, even while the Jewish left- and right-wing parties have been supposedly seeking a compromise at the President’s residence.
Indeed, a broadly-supported judicial reform that will combine at least 60 of the coalition’s members with Benny Gantz’s National Camp’s 12 MKs would be preferable, but one need not sneeze at Mansour Abbas’s 5 MKs, should push come to shove and the “presidential” negotiations break down.
A profile article in the Haaretz weekend supplement says many of Levin’s friends and companions describe him as a “sworn pessimist.” This, according to them, is the most dominant element in both his political and personal conduct. Since he was elected to the Knesset, Levin assumes that every day could be his last day in politics.
According to Liel, Levin is creating a security net for his legislation and has offered Ra’am budgets and localized support. But Abbas wants much more than a bribe. He is looking to end the ban on the government’s dealings with his party, imposed by Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit. Above everything else, he demands to be included in the fight against crime in Arab society. Abbas wants to be the Arab hero who ended the madness of daily murders in his social sector. And truth be told, he is much better equipped to get things done in this area than his competition in the other Arab party.
It appears that Levin has already delivered his first goodwill gesture to Abbas: the Judicial Legislative Committee Levin chairs has embraced a Ra’am bill to establish a hospital in the Arab city of Sakhnin in northern Israel. The bill is an opportunity for Abbas, who is affiliated with the Arabs of southern Israel, to benefit the Arabs of northern Israel.
Both sides deny the report, although it’s interesting to follow the subtext in an exchange between Abbas and Levin at the Knesset plenum which Liel shared in her tweet. Abbas is pleading with Levin, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, to tell him how Ra’am can help him get his judicial reform through:
הערב דיווחנו – שר המשפטים, יריב לוין ויו״ר רע״ם, מנסור עבאס עומדים בקשר בניסיון להשיג את תמיכת רע״ם בחקיקה המשפטית. המגעים הראשונים עם הליכוד דווחו לפני כחודש בערוץ 13 אבל הקשר נמשך גם בזמן הדיונים בבית הנשיא.
לוין מחפש רשת בטחון לרפורמה ומוכן לתת תקציבים וסיוע נקודתי.
עבאס לא… pic.twitter.com/MbuB1ES9ID
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) May 4, 2023
But even if nothing substantial comes out of the negotiations (other than the hospital), Abbas is proving once again that he remains the only Arab leader who can represent his voters in dealing with the government. While the Hadash-Ta’al coalition of communists and nationalists continues to waste their voters’ support on anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian empty declarations, Mansour Abbas delivers real goods to Israeli Arabs.
The Middle East Institute on Friday published an analysis of the southern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement (What’s driving Mansour Abbas and Ra’am’s strategy?), which has “long emphasized the need for a pragmatic approach that will improve the status of Palestinian residents while cultivating their national and religious identities and achieving a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“The basic principles formulated by the movement’s founders stemmed from a deeply religious worldview,” says the report, adding, “First, the Muslim community in Israel has a responsibility to maintain its traditional religious identity, while also exercising discretion, responsibility, and independence. Sheikh Darwish, though he was part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, was careful to make decisions independently. As a result, the southern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement adopts an independent religious line and does not rely as firmly on the Muslim Brotherhood’s perspectives and rulings — unlike Hamas or the northern branch.”
It should be noted that while Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir would walk should PM Benjamin Netanyahu suggest including Ra’am in his government, they should not be averse in principle to striking deals with the same faction. A Knesset vote is a vote, is a vote.