Tuesday, December 28, 2021


By Daled Amos


Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra'am Party and member of the ruling coalition government in Israel made waves last week when he publicly declared that he recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

During an interview with Mohammad Magadli of Channel 12 News, Abbas said:

Israel was born a Jewish state, that was the decision of the people, and the question is not what is the identity of the state — it was born this way and it will remain this way.

Israellycool posted the video:

The question is: just how seriously should we take Abbas's apparent recognition of Israel as a Jewish state?
After all, back in December 1988...

After a two-day meeting with five prominent American Jews here, a P.L.O. delegation led by Mr. Arafat said in a joint statement that the Palestinian parliament in exile last month had ''accepted the existence of Israel as a state in the region'' and ''declared its rejection and condemnation of terrorism in all its forms.''

It became evident that Arafat neither accepted the existence of Israel nor rejected the use of terrorism, so it is understandable that some may be wary.

One indication of how difficult it may be for some to accept what Abbas said is that this is not even the first time that Abbas has recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

In a December 17 article on the Haaretz website, Michael Milshtein wrote:

Three weeks ago, United Arab List leader Dr. Mansour Abbas dropped one of the most dramatic political bombshells that’s been heard in Israeli discourse for some years. Astonishingly, it attracted very limited attention among both the Jewish or Arab publics. In the course of a tempestuous interview in the studio of the Nazareth-based Kul al-Arab news site, which addressed the UAL’s integration in the coalition, Abbas said, “Whether we like it or not, Israel is a Jewish state, and my central goal is to define the status of the country’s Arab citizens. I view myself as a citizen in the full sense of the word, who deserves to receive full civil rights.” [emphasis added]

That means Abbas originally came out with his recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in late November, before his interview with Magadli, without being noticed

And Ruthie Blum notes that following his statement in his interview with Magadli, Abbas doubled down in a post on Facebook:

In a lengthy post on Facebook, he reiterated what he had said at the conference, writing that Arabs need to distinguish between “desires and reality,” and not be fooled by the slogan “a state for all its citizens,” which is “employed to exploit people’s emotions without telling them that they’re talking about the state of Israel.”

The fact is, he emphasized, “legally and demographically, the State of Israel is a Jewish state.” [emphasis added]

We can argue over what Abbas is up to, but this was definitely no slip of the tongue.

Maybe he was reacting in response to a member of his own party.
JNS reported that on December 20, Ibrahim Hijazi -- the secretary-general of the Ra'am Party -- among other things called for the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to be erased:

Ibrahim Hijazi made the remarks during in an interview that aired on the the Nazareth-based Kul al-Arab news station, just one day prior to Ra’am head Mansour Abbas’s declaration that Israel will remain a Jewish state. The interview was translated and first reported on by the Arab desk of Israeli NGO Im Tirtzu.

Hijazi stated that “the one who makes decision on large matters, nationalistic and ideological, is not Ibrahim [Hijazi] or Mansour [Abbas]—it’s the Ra’am platform.”

...Hijazi also asserted that the Arabs, not Jews, are indigenous to the land. [emphasis added]

Maybe Abbas offered his recognition of Israel in order to deflect attention from a claim made by a leader in his own party, whose own statement could potentially cause embarrassment.

There is no way to know for sure.
Just as there is no way to know for sure why Abbas originally made his statement in November.

But back in November, Caroline Glick outlined multiple ties that Mansour Abbas apparently had to Hamas.
Could Abbas have been reacting to that?

In an I24News article on Abbas's interview with Magadli, there is an unrelated embedded video discussing an offer Abbas made in the beginning of November to take $32 million earmarked for the Arab community -- and offer it to the "Jewish Ultra-Orthodox sector" in what he claimed was consistent with the policy of the Ra'am party to help all of the weak sectors of society. Some attacked the move as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Orthodox parties and the Likud, led by Netanyahu. When asked for his take on Abbas's motivation, Gil Hoffman -- chief political correspondent for The Jerusalem Post -- suggests:

Abbas is right now, very, very angry at Netanyahu. He blames Netanyahu for reports that there have been over the last week about reported ties between Ra'am and Hamas that Abbas vigorously denies and this is his way of getting revenge against Netanyahu.

Could his first statement about recognizing Israel have similarly been a reaction to those claims accusing him of ties to Hamas?

Maybe.

But on a practical level, the fact remains that Mansour Abbas has shown an ability to work within the Israel government, receiving a willingness for cooperation from unexpected areas. 

For example, while the right-wing Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich refused to help form a coalition for Netanayahu that included Abbas, in 2020, Smotrich did help Abbas as transportation minister to resolve traffic infrastructure problems near the Israeli Arab towns of Nazareth and Kafr Kanna -- proving once again that politics makes strange bedfellows.

Which is what Naftali Bennett's coalition seems to be all about.

And if the head of the Islamist movement in Israel can work together with a right-wing Zionist, maybe there could be potential for some other positive developments as well.










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