Abbas: speaking with Netanyahu first legitimized Raam across the political spectrum


A day after his Islamist party agreed to join the coalition of parties supporting the “change of government”, leader Ra’am Mansour Abbas said on Thursday that he had preferred to conduct his first negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, allowing him to gain legitimacy not only on the right, but among the center and left which are now positioned to overthrow Israel’s longest-serving prime minister with his help.

Ra’am, a local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement whose charter calls Zionism “racist” and supports a right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, has never been part of a governing coalition.

But in recent months, Abbas has taken important steps towards recognizing the main Israeli parties, softening his rhetoric and leading extensive negotiations on political cooperation with Netanyahu’s Likud. However, after the Prime Minister‘s far-right ally Bezalel Smotrich vetoed a right-wing government backed by Raam, Abbas went on to sign an unprecedented coalition deal with the “change bloc”.

“It was more perfect to take that step with the full right – because in these areas, when you do the process with the right, you also get the center and the left,” Abbas told public broadcaster Kan, adding that his decision had led to “recognition across the political and social spectrum in Israel.”

In an interview at his home in the northern town of Maghar, Abbas said that relations with his new partners, “in particular Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett … have developed well, positively, as well as an understanding. the needs of each party “.

“There were ups and downs and at a certain point Naftali Bennett moved towards a right-wing government, but then he came back and the change of government was back on the table,” he said. Abbas said.

A photo montage shows the party leaders of the future “change of government” that the leader of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, announced he could form on June 2, 2021. (Flash90)

“This fluidity of points of view has undoubtedly made me a little suspicious, but because you are in almost daily contact and you discuss and share your points of view on the uncertainties or the difficulties that each one faces. [leader] has in his party, it increases confidence and allows you to make a decision, ”he said.

The moment of signing the coalition agreement was very touching, Abbas said, adding that “some people even shed a tear.”

If the new government is sworn in, Israel will have a new prime minister for the first time since 2009. Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister until September 2023, when he will be replaced by Yair Lapid.

In addition to the 12 consecutive years he has served as prime minister since then, Netanyahu also served as prime minister for three years in the late 1990s.

“Although we didn’t get everything we wanted, we got quite a few things,” Abbas said, referring to the currently unpublished coalition deals, which Ra’am says include more than $ 53 billion. of shekels ($ 16.3 billion) in government budgets and development plans for Arab Society, legalization of three unrecognized Bedouin villages and amendment to the controversial Kaminitz law of 2017, which targets illegal Arab constructions.

Those same promises, and possibly more, were also offered by Netanyahu, according to Ra’am. In a phone call on Wednesday, shortly before Yair Lapid’s tenure to form a government expired, Netanyahu told Abbas that he was the only one who could make a real change in the way the community was treated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a face mask due to the coronavirus outbreak, seen in the Knesset plenary hall in Jerusalem on June 2, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

“I am the only one who can open a new page with Arab society. You can only do it with me. My status and the fact that my government will be right-wing will allow me to do things that they cannot afford to do, ”Netanyahu told Raam’s leader, Channel 12 news reported.

The Likud Party confirmed to the network that the prime minister spoke to Abbas, but denied making any specific promises.

Hours later, Abbas signed an agreement joining the “change of government” that aims to oust Netanyahu.

Questions remain, however, as to whether the coalition can hold its own, as final coalition agreements have yet to be officially released and negotiations are expected to continue until the oath is taken. Likud is also stepping up pressure on members of the right-wing Yamina and New Hope parties to step down and sink the majority of the emerging coalition.

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