Mansour Abbas and his party have no place in Israel’s government

Behold the disasters that ensued when Islamists in the region were allowed to establish a foothold in Arab governments! Op-ed.

Eric Ruskin ,

Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra'am party
Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra'am party
Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Of the many developments that have followed Israel’s recent election, one in particular should give pause to anyone who cares deeply about the future of the Jewish State – the very real possibility that a government may be formed relying on the support of the United Arab List.

Led by Mansour Abbas, this party serves as the Islamic Movement’s political wing in Israel and is known by the abbreviation Ra’am, which means “thunder.” Putting aside what we are being fed about the placid, melodious sound of this type of thunder, there is little doubt that the people behind Ra’am are Islamists to the core.

The results of last month’s vote left Abbas with four crucial Knesset seats and a media-bestowed role as a kingmaker who could break the deadlock between the pro and anti-Netanyahu blocs, neither of which currently have a majority of seats.

Desperate to unseat Netanyahu, Yair Lapid wasted little time in signaling a willingness to consider making Ra’am part of his potential coalition. Given who we are talking about, perhaps this should not have come as a surprise.

Far more problematic for those who support the Jewish and Zionist character of Israel are the indications that some in the pro-Netanyahu, right-wing/religious alliance are also willing to entertain such a coalition, either formally or informally.

Speculation about a potential governmental role for Ra’am, along with the whitewashing of its record of extremism fueled by a radical Islamist ideology, reached a fever pitch on April 1st when Abbas delivered an address carried live on Israeli networks. For most Israelis this event took place in the midst of Passover, but Abbas must have viewed it as an April Fools’ Day prank.

It was a performance catering to the needs of desperate politicians, media pundits and a dangerously large number of voters who were so election-fatigued that they probably failed to notice that the wolf standing before them had donned an elaborate sheep’s costume for the evening.

The speech’s worthless platitudes could not be taken seriously by any Jew familiar with Ra’am’s radical record. Absent were the extreme anti-Zionist aspects of its ideology, which are reflected in its charter and which have been demonstrated for decades by its leadership’s inflammatory rhetoric, rejection of Jewish sovereignty, and identification with the enemies of Israel.

Indeed, since the election, Ra’am representatives have observed a kind of radio silence about the many aspects of their movement which are anathema to Jews both secular and religious. It certainly seems to be the stealthy silence of people who consider themselves to be on a most important mission.

Proponents of this gambit invoke unrelated matters like the Abraham Accords. What is forgotten is that the Arab signatories to that agreement would never dream of inviting Islamist political foxes into the hen houses of their own governments.
It is therefore astounding to see how many people on the right have inexplicably attempted to justify potential cooperation with Ra’am, if only to prevent a government headed by Lapid or a fifth election. They are correct that a Lapid government is itself an extremely problematic prospect - almost as problematic as the consequences of legitimizing Islamists.

Lapid may ultimately succeed in cobbling together a majority by luring some erstwhile right-wing politicians, who, due to a hatred of Netanyahu and a lust for power, are willing to work with Islamists to tip the numbers in their favor. If so, it will be a coalition lacking in Zionist legitimacy.

The governmental ride for such a motley crew will likely be short and bumpy. In any event, the spectacle will be played out before a Jewish public that leans to the right politically.

A fifth election, while lamentable, would be a mere continuation of the current dysfunction in comparison to the possibility of a Ra’am-backed government that would amount to a descent into an even worse predicament.

Yet the advocates of a right-wing/religious coalition that relies on Abbas cannot see beyond the political exigencies of the moment to ponder the long-term negative effects of empowering Ra’am, which to begin with would constitute an unprecedented ceding of a portion of Jewish political sovereignty.

Those seeking to convince us of the legitimacy of this option likely view it as a one-time necessity. But they are actually calling for the right-wing and religious parties to lean on a crutch that is almost certain to be pulled out from under them at the worst possible moment. Ra'am's waiting until the last minute to appear at the Knesset session choosing the makeup of the key Arrangements Committee and then voting with the left is proof enough.

If the right goes this route even once, then the other side of the aisle will throw caution to the wind in the future. Ra’am and other extremist Arab parties will take advantage to negotiate their way into future governments, upping their price for cooperation to the detriment of the Jewish character of the state and its security.

Some of the proponents of this gambit invoke unrelated matters like the Abraham Accords. What is forgotten is that the Arab signatories to that agreement would never dream of inviting Islamist political foxes into the hen houses of their own governments.

It is astounding to see Israeli politicians and pro-Israel commentators behold the disasters that ensued when Islamists in the region were allowed to establish a foothold in government and essentially exclaim, “we’d like some of that for Israel too!” As time runs out on Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government, there is indeed reason to be concerned.

And yet in this month when we commemorate Israel’s founding and the liberation of Jerusalem, fittingly enough there is hope. One party appears unwilling to countenance participation in any coalition that would include Ra’am, whether from the outside, inside or any other side.

I refer to the Religious Zionist Party led by Betzalel Smotrich, a man whom the Israeli establishment often scorns as much as it praises Mansour Abbas. If Smotrich and his party prevent the formation of a coalition that depends upon Ra’am, then they will have done a great service not only to the National Camp but to all of Israel.

In the face of unyielding political pressure, they will have provided a tangible example of what Hatikvah really means.