Arab political parties are now legitimate partners in Israel’s politics and government
The next government will not be typical for the citizens of the State of Israel, and in particular for members of the Palestinian Arab minority, who represent 20% of the population of Israel. It’s the the first time that the Zionist political parties forming the government include an Arab party.
It is ironic that the prime minister of this government is Naftali Bennett. Bennett is the leader of the radical right-wing Yamina political party, whose ideologies and interests contradict the interests of the Arab party, and who opposed Arab participation in the coalition or government. Its national-religious political movement, which represents many Jewish settlers, signed the coalition agreement with Ra’am, the Arab Islamic party.
In Israel’s 73-year history, it was an unwritten rule that any government the coalition would only be formed by the Jewish Zionist parties. There was only one exception, when the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin leaned on the support of an Arab party in the wake of the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s. The agreement, however, did not formalize the entry of this party into the ruling coalition.
The chain of events triggered by Rabin was considered an unforgivable sin of the Israeli right, which portrayed Rabin as a traitor – as they do now with Bennett – and which ultimately led to Rabin’s assassination.
Changing Israeli policy
What pushed the first Arab party into a ruling coalition was not the desire for a peace deal. It was the poor state of Israeli politics after four electoral rounds in two years without a clear winner, combined with the strong desire of the opposition, called the “Change blockTo oust longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Arabs have not forgotten Netanyahu’s hostile remarks in previous elections. It was then that he urged the settlers to vote against the The Arabs who “vote en masse. ”
After failing in the last election to discourage the Arab vote and secure a majority of his own, it was Netanyahu who first understood the potential need to cooperate with Arab parties. After all other efforts to form a ruling coalition failed, he tried to lure the leader of Ra’am Mansour Abbas to his side even before Bennett, but to no avail.
For his part, Abbas has proposed changing the way Arab parties treat 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 can influence it and accomplish great things for our Arab society”, Abbas said.
For decades, Palestinian Arab political parties would not join Israeli governments who continued to support the occupation of their Palestinian brethren, oppressed them and denied their basic rights. And they were kept away from leadership coalitions by the fear of the Jewish parties to cooperate with them.
Abbas’s call to pragmatism means that it will support political coalitions committed to responding to the immediate and urgent demands of the Arab minority in Israel. The main one of these demands is to deal with the problems of violence, house demolitions, planning in new Arab villages and towns, education and equality.
Important promises made
Abbas’s approach was rejected by the rest of the Palestinian political parties, and divide common list, which was a political alliance of four of the Arab political parties in Israel: Balad, Hadash, Ta’al and Ra’am, which they had formed for previous elections.
The February 2021 election results meant that Raam entered Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, with four members. These four can prove to be decisive in this politically fractured situation.
For now, it looks like Abbas has achieved what he wanted. Despite serious disagreement among Arabs over his approach, he is convinced that his party’s governing responsibilities will change the face of Israeli politics in all matters relating to the Arab minority and yield positive results for the rights and status of women. Arab citizens in Israel.
“We have reached a critical mass of agreements in various areas which serve the interests of Arab society and which provide solutions to the burning problems of Arab society – planning, the housing crisis and, of course, the fight against violence and organized crime ”, Abbas said.
To help the Arab sector, among the promises he received from his new partners in the new government are the adoption of a five-year economic development plan for the Arab community with a budget of NIS 30 billion, or $ 9.3 billion, as well as plans to combat crime and violence in the Arab community, to improve infrastructure, to advance Arab local authorities, and to reconsider the Kaminitz law, which has led to an increase in demolitions and evictions of Palestinian property.
The agreement also includes recognition of several Bedouin villages in the Negev, the southern district of Israel where the majority of the country’s Bedouin live.
Many in the Arab community, and especially among the Bedouin, see Abbas emerging from this election as a victorious leader. He recorded for himself and the Islamic movement several historical achievements on many important levels.
On a material level, it has secured programs, budgets and decisions that support the needs of the Arab minority.
But the most important achievement is the fundamental change marked by the acceptance of Arab parties in Israeli politics and the recognition of Arab political parties as legitimate partners in politics and power sharing in Israel.
This is a primary objective that the Arab parties have failed to achieve since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. After two years with four elections, it is not certain that this government will continue either. but, whatever happens, it is a historic change.
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