The Islamist Ra’am party is set to join a new Israeli government under a deal reached by Israel’s opposition parties to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening, potentially confounding anti-Israel critics.
Mansour Abbas led his party to win four seats in Israel’s 120-member Knesset in elections earlier this year, despite low overall turnout among Arab voters. Roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab, the majority of which is Muslim.
Ra’am is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, though it is considered less radical. According to the Times of Israel, Abbas secured $16.3 billion in funding for new development programs in Israel’s Arab community in exchange for supporting the opposition’s effort to oust Netanyahu. The Israeli government will also recognize three previously unrecognized Bedouin Arab villages in the Negev desert, and consider lifting restrictions on some illegal construction in Arab villages.
Cooperation between Ra’am and the other, predominantly Jewish, parties was seen as unlikely when war broke out last month, especially after inter-communal violence between Arabs and Jews. But the end of the war allowed a deal to form.
Israel’s critics have taken to calling it an “apartheid” state, likening it to apartheid South Africa, which segregated blacks and whites, and denying blacks the right to vote. But Israel’s Arab citizens have always had the vote, and there is nothing in Israel like the segregation of South Africa or the Jim Crow South in the U.S. Moreover, the participation of an Islamist Arab party in the new government would defy such comparisons — even though it will also provoke opposition in Israel.
The new agreement, if approved by Israel’s Knesset in the coming days, would also grant conservative Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu aide, the post of prime minister for two years under a rotation agreement with current opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party. Bennett had promised not to sit in a governing coalition with the Arab parties. (His voters appear to be abandoning his party over his broken promise, after news of the new deal.)
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it). His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.