It is ironic that the prime minister of this government would be Naftali Bennett. Bennett is the leader of the radical right-wing political party Yamina, whose ideologies and interests contradict the Arab party’s interests, and which has opposed Arab participation in the coalition or government. His national-religious political movement, which represents many Jewish settlers, signed the coalition agreement with Ra’am, the Islamic Arab party.
The Arabs did not forget Netanyahu’s hostile remarks during the previous elections. That’s when he urged the settlers to cast their votes against the Arabs who “are voting in droves.”
After failing in the latest election to both discourage the Arab vote and ensure a majority of his own, it was Netanyahu who first understood the potential need to cooperate with the Arab parties. After all other efforts to form a ruling coalition failed, he tried to lure Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas to his side even before Bennett did, but to no avail.
For his part, Abbas proposed to change the way Arab parties deal with the Jewish parties and politics in Israel.
“I say here clearly and frankly: When the very establishment of this government is based on our support … we will be able to influence it and accomplish great things for our Arab society,” Abbas said.
Abbas’ call for pragmatism means that he will support political coalitions committed to meeting the immediate and urgent demands of the Arab minority in Israel. Chief among those demands is addressing the issues of violence, house demolitions, planning in new Arab villages and towns, education and equality.
Significant promises made
Abbas’ approach was rejected by the rest of the Palestinian political parties, and thus split up the Joint List, which was a political alliance of four of the Arab political parties in Israel: Balad, Hadash, Ta’al and Ra’am, that they had formed for the previous elections.
The February 2021 election results meant Ra’am entered Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, with four members. Those four can prove decisive in this politically fractured situation.
For now, it appears that Abbas achieved what he wanted. Despite the serious disagreement among the Arabs over his approach, he is convinced that his party’s governing responsibilities will change the face of Israeli politics in all matters related to the Arab minority and will show positive results for the rights and status of Arab citizens in Israel.
“We have reached a critical mass of agreements in various fields that serves the interest of Arab society and that provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society – planning, the housing crisis, and of course, fighting violence and organized crime,” Abbas said.
The agreement also includes recognition of several Bedouin villages in the Negev, the southern district of Israel where a majority of the country’s Bedouins live.
Many in the Arab community, and especially among the Bedouins, see Abbas emerging from this election as a victorious leader. He has recorded for himself and the Islamic movement several historical achievements on many important levels.
On the material level, he has secured programs, budgets and decisions that support needs of the Arab minority.
This is a paramount goal the Arab parties have failed to achieve since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. After two years with four elections, it’s not certain that this government will last either, but, regardless of what happens, this is a historic change.
Morad Elsana does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.