מנסור עבאס
Ra'am Chairman Mansour Abbas speaks to supporters after exit polls revealed
Photo: Elad Gershgorn

Unlikely kingmaker Mansour Abbas is playing for the pot

Opinion: Islamist party leader's gamble in splintering from Joint List paid off, and his rightwing suitors should realize that while he does prefer a conservative government, he is beholden to his voters and will go with highest bidder

Shimrit Meir |
Published: 03.25.21 , 23:30
Within this thick political fog, it is still too early to come out with any decisive statements. There is no government yet. Perhaps there will be one. or perhaps not.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • But there is one clear victor in this election: Mansour Abbas, the chairman of the United Arab List (Ra'am) who decided to take a leap of fate and splintered from the Joint List, managed to pass the electoral threshold all by himself.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with son Yair and wife Sara at Passover's Seder dinner
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with son Yair and wife Sara at Passover's Seder dinner
    (Cartoon: Guy Morad)
    This will serve the party well in the event of a fifth election, for Ra'am has proven it knows how to run a campaign.
    Mansour Abbas hopped from one election event to another with the kind of elan that is reminiscent of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. With almost solely men in front of him, he went from home to home and from family to family.
    The Islamic Movement in Israel is not short of money and it had spent it wisely, paying for a formidable online presence, plastering its signs all over the place and hiring the services of two pollsters, just to be on the safe side.
    The Ra'am voter base is comprised mainly of two groups — the Bedouins in northern and southern Israel and conservative Muslim city dwellers.
    The Islamist party pumped its message every place it could: the Joint List has failed, we will protect Islamic and family values, there won't be any pride parades on our watch.
    In return, we're asking you to give us the keys to the castle. We are willing to lend our support to the highest bidder who will offer the most resources and best solutions to tackle the sector's high crime rates and crumbling infrastructure.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    פעילות מפלגת רע"ם לקראת הבחירות
    פעילות מפלגת רע"ם לקראת הבחירות
    A Ra'am campaign rally in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat
    Some in Netanyahu's orbit on the right have already started working diligently to legitimize a Ra'am-backed government. This a cynical move on the part of those who do not understand the essence of the Islamist movement — a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in what they call "48 Palestine" — especially given it stems from political survival rather than a partnership within a broader government.
    But aside from the historical shortsightedness, this could turn out to be an idiotic political move. Although Ra'am has grown enamored with the role of kingmaker, it will ultimately have to make a decision, and it might just as well choose the other side.
    Mansour Abbas is an Islamist, not a Bibist, and although he prefers a right-wing, religiously conservative government that won't promote pro-LGBT legislation, he is still beholden to his constituency and will go with whoever ticks the most boxes off his wish list.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    מנסור עבאס
    מנסור עבאס
    Mansour Abbas speaks to supporters after the exit polls were released Tuesday
    (Photo: Elad Gershgorn)
    Ra'am Secretary General Ibrahim Hijazi elucidated the logic behind the movement's intentions — in case of a 58–58 deadlock for both electoral blocs, the Arabs will decide the identity of the next prime minister.
    "This is not a trivial matter," he said with excitement.
    Like others in the party, Hijazi too was blown away by the power of political flexibility.
    "When you show your hand, you have already lost," he said and went on to detail Rama's plans.
    The party will present a list of 20 demands to both blocs, and then present the answers to its constituents, conducting surveys and consulting local Arab leaders.
    This is an example of the Islamic principle of Shura — a community deciding its affairs in consultation with those who will be affected by that decision. This kind of transparency should also shield the party from criticism.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Ra'am supporters celebrate election results that put the party in the Knesset
    Ra'am supporters celebrate election results that put the party in the Knesset
    Ra'am supporters celebrate election results that put the party in the Knesset
    One of the biggest advantages of having Ra'am as a partner is that it is comfortable supporting from the outside.
    The old-fashioned Haredi model, for example, means that sitting in the government also embeds its constituency into the Zionist state and entails a whole host of dilemmas.
    The future Ra'am MKs say they are driven by achievements rather than scoring a lucrative position for themselves.
    Abbas also shrewdly realized that the difference between indifference and obsession in Israeli politics hangs on one thing and one thing only — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו ומנסור עבאס
    בנימין נתניהו ומנסור עבאס
    Mansour Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photos: Elad Gershgorn, Reuters)
    Some would argue that this is a welcome trend of Arab participation, a correction to decades of exclusion from the political game. This is just half of the story.
    The other half is the Israeli political system's self-destructive propensity which has reached a point where it needs a subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood — a political network whose centers are located in Qatar, Turkey and Gaza, and which has been blackballed throughout the Middle East — to form a government.
    Talkbacks for this article 0