Joint List MK Abbas would sit in Netanyahu-led gov't, feels used by Left

"I am not ruling it out depending on the circumstances and conditions," Abbas said about joining a Netanyahu-led government.

Joint List MK Mansour Abbas alongside Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - ADINA WALLMAN)
Joint List MK Mansour Abbas alongside Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2020
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - ADINA WALLMAN)
Joint List MK Mansour Abbas, head of Ra’am (United Arab List), said that he will not rule out the possibility of joining a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or by right-wing leadership in an interview with The Jerusalem Post's sister publication Maariv published Saturday. Abbas also said that he feels used by the left-wing.
When asked by Maariv if he would sit in a government led by Netanyahu, Abbas said that the most important thing is making political moves that serve the Arab sector. “If an offer comes, I will consider it – and if the offer serves Arab society, we will seriously consider it,” Abbas explained.
“I am not ruling it out – depending on the circumstances and conditions,” Abbas went on to say about the option of joining a Netanyahu-led government.
When asked about the history of Arab cooperation with the Left, Abbas said the relationship has sometimes left Arab society wanting. “My feelings are that the Left is using us – that they see us as a reserve force that should be used at a certain moment before they move on,” he said.
Abbas went on to explain what causes him to rethink his work with right-wing parties and the current disconnect between Arab parties and Israel’s Right. “People always think that the right-wing has a tendency to be anti and not want to support issues concerning Arabs, but people from the Right say explicitly that they want to advance issues concerning the Arab population, especially civil issues.”
“On many issues, I find partners for conversation from the right-wing. I have had many conversations with ministers and MKs from the Right that have started with apologies – like they have very different and difficult opinions – and suddenly, they realized I have the patience to hear what they have to say and things ended differently.”
Abbas told Maariv that as he worked in the Knesset, he “realized that it is worth investing in developing the relationship with the Right – and finding the points of connection and the things we have in common that could bring us to a better place.”
WHEN ASKED about the fact that some of the Arab population says that Israel’s right-wing leadership behaves in a racist manner, Abbas told the Hebrew newspaper that he is “not ignoring the injustices, divides and discriminatory decisions – but right now I am not interested in labeling anyone but in moving forward for the good of my population.”
Asked about two specific examples of behavior that provoked accusations of racism – when Netanyahu said that “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls” in 2015 and the passage of the Nation State-Law – Abbas said that he wants to find a pragmatic reaction to these incidents. He said that these incidents were not befitting a democracy and not appropriate. He also said they were angering and insulting on a personal level, but he feels that the only pragmatic thing to do is to respond in a way that may advance Arab society.
Abbas first made headlines in October, when he helped Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) quash an opposition attempt to initiate a parliamentary probe of Netanyahu’s role in the “Submarines Affair.”
Abbas’s strategy of seeking to work with Netanyahu has faced both criticism and praise from other Arab MKs and all sides of the political map.
His critics on the Left say he is wrong to trust Netanyahu, who has made Arabs the enemy in his last four election campaigns and, according to one critic, is “acting like a preacher who does not practice what he preaches with his cynical romance with Abbas.”
But sources in the Joint List say that by cooperating with Abbas, Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman have laid the groundwork for future partnerships with their party that will enable governments to be formed, removing that taboo forever.
Abbas heads Ra’am, an Islamic party that has four of the 15 MKs on the Joint List.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.