עפיף אבו מוך
Afif Abu Much
Photo: Amit Shaal
L-R: Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas signing the outline of their coalition agreement earlier this month in Ramat Gan

A momentous day for Israel's Arabs

Opinion: Regardless of how long the new government remains in power, or even how successful Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas is in delivering on his promises to his voters, history is being made Sunday by virtue of his membership in the coalition

Afif Abu Much |
Published: 06.13.21, 12:30
Barring a last-minute surprise, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett will on Sunday afternoon, be sworn in as Israel's new prime minister.
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  • But the truly historical event of the day will be the participation of an Arab political party in the new coalition, and its place as part of the country's leadership.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    עבאס, בנט ולפיד לאחר החתימה בפגישה בכפר המכבייה
    עבאס, בנט ולפיד לאחר החתימה בפגישה בכפר המכבייה
    L-R: Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas signing the outline of their coalition agreement earlier this month in Ramat Gan
    (Photo: Nawaf al-Nabari)
    After long-years of delegitimizing the Arab citizens of the country and their exclusion from public discourse, Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas managed to change the rules of the game, with the help of outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Netanyahu opened the door to Abbas, whom he hoped would support his right-wing and religious coalition – a move that backfired and paved the way for the opposing coalition.
    It is unfortunate that the so-called coalition for change needed Netanyahu to make the first overture towards the Arab politician before daring to consider such a partnership.
    The Joint List, the alliance of Arab parties, has yet to undergo a similar cleansing in the eyes of Jewish Israelis, and an offer to join the new government has not been extended to its members, raising questions as to the Bennett-Lapid union's backbone when it comes to truly historic changes needed in Israeli politics and society.
    But this should not diminish from the importance of Ra'am's inclusion in the new coalition, nor should it diminish the importance of an Arab being appointed to be minister – Meretz member Issawi Freij - the first in many years.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    עיסאווי פריג' ממרצ
    עיסאווי פריג' ממרצ
    Designated Minister for Regional Cooperation Issawi Freij
    (Photo: The Knesset)
    Regardless of the wording in the recently signed coalition agreements and the odds of Ra'am's success in bringing the Arab sector the achievements promised by its leader, at the end of the day history is being made.
    Ra'am is a full member of the governing coalition. Its support of the government is not through political maneuvering, which Jewish politicians have used in the past when they asked their Arab colleagues for parliamentary votes but were not open to their participation in the political process, fearing their constituents' wrath if they were seen joining hands with Arabs.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    ההפגנה בהבימה
    ההפגנה בהבימה
    Arab and Jewish demonstrators call for unity in Tel Aviv in May
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    The past two years of political stalemate have shown that if politics is a roller-coaster ride, Israeli politics is the scariest and most unexpected ride of all.
    Bennett, who failed to pass the Knesset threshold in 2019 and was headed into political oblivion, will now become the prime minister.
    Abbas and his Ra'am party have gone from being ostracized by Jewish politicians to the most courted members of Knesset and kingmakers in the formation of any government.
    It is too soon to know how successful the new coalition will be or even how long it will last.
    But by including an Arab party, it will have crushed the long-existing notion that Israeli Jews cannot partner with representatives of the Arab sector to govern the country together.
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