Prime minister Bennett and Mansour Abbaas
The leader of Ra'am, an Arab political party, knows that he is conducting affairs correctly because even in the Arab street people agree that one must set aside the 'major issues', namely, the national conflict, in favor of 'smaller' issues which are more relevant to the average citizen, including the concern for economic respite and personal security. A recent survey conducted by the Arab-Israeli news channel Fante suggested that Mansour Abbaas was chosen as the most influential person in the Arab society, gaining 47% of the votes of those interviewed. Far behind him was the 25% vote for his opponent, Aiman Ouda, chairman of the Joint List, who was in second place.
Poraat Nasaar columnist in "Channel Twelve News" from the Galilee explains: "Surveys are not always exact but most of them concede that Abbaas' strength is on the rise and they see it as a fact. This is not so much because of his personal ability, as for the reason that he is coming at the precise time that the Arab public wants to be a partner in making political decisions, including the Israeli Police department, Fire Department? and in general, the Israeli society. Don't we hear almost daily of the joining of an officer or fighter to the rescue forces from the sector..."
What caused the political turnabout in Abbaas' policy which led to his decision to leave the joint list and run separately?
"He understood the feelings of his own sector. A survey taken before the previous elections which examined the preferences of the Arab citizens revealed that their top priority is to deal with crime and violence, and after doing so, to deal with all that is involved with the rights of homes and land. In third place was the need to develop industrial and economic areas. This indicates the fact that this is what the Arab public wants. In order to realize these goals, there must be partnership in the decision making process, and Abbaas was the smartest in internalizing this fact.
The political columnist of Channel Twelve, Dafna Liel, considers this from a different angle. "At first there was a consensus between the "associates" of Abbaas that it was necessary to operate towards a high degree of coordination and perhaps even joining the Coalition. This is the reason why the heads of the Joint List recommended Gantz as Prime Minister at the first round of the elections, but while they regarded Netanyahu as the red flag, Abbaas thought that he could be a legitimate partner since he felt that the focus should be on civil issues. But this caused a deep rift between the factions because the Joint List regarded Netanyahu as an inciter in recent years."
In the years when Abbaas' list joined Chadash, Taal and Balad, was it obvious that something in his political stand differed from that of his colleagues?
Nasaar: Not at all. In those days he was not detached from this in his conduct. An interesting anecdote connected to this took place over a month ago when Abbaas ranted against the chairman of Taal, MK Ahmad Tibi, in the Knesset plenum: "Enough with the games you are playing here." And Tibi rejoined, "When you were a partner with us in the Joint List, you also indulged in theatrics."
What are the real plays of force between Mansour Abbaas and his colleagues of the list, Maazen Jenim and Walid Taha, in view of the fact that time after time, it appears that they are promoting their own independent, more extreme line?
"In my opinion, Jenim bases his future on a desire to make a comeback as the mayor of Sachnin, while Taha is building himself up as the future head of Ra'am instead of Abbaas, which I personally do not foresee as happening in the near future because Abbaas' position as chairman seems altogether stable. In any event, they are operating thus towards their own goals.
Throughout the latest political negotiations, in the process of setting up a government, it appeared that Abbaas gave preferences to joining a government which would include the Rightist bloc rather one of the Leftist parties. How can you explain this absurdity?
Dafna Liel: "Through two reasons. First, in my opinion, receiving legitimization from the Rightist bloc has greater significance than from the Leftist one because the Rightists advocate accepting the Israeli Arabs through the front door. Second, Abbaas regards the Rightists, who are more conservative, as good partners in all that involves religious issues."
How should we define his relationship with his Jewish partners in the coalition, vis a vis the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his more rightist colleagues?
"All in all, they enjoy a mutual esteem. Not to say that he is not disappointed with some of his partners. On the right side of the Coalition, headed by Ayelet Shaked, he believes that they, as he, do not want to effect a revolution in the quality of life of Israeli Arabs which demands a long list of legal changes and amendments but only desire cosmetic alterations. This is because they are still operating under the fear of criticism which will come from the Rightist bloc in the Opposition. But as already said, aside from this, the relations and atmosphere is generally positive," Liel sums up.
From whichever direction one looks, there is no doubt that Mansour Abbaas is one of the strongest men in Israel today. How symbolic it is that he was granted the most coveted calling card, technically, according free access to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. Technically? This seems superfluous: the keys to the office are in the hands of the Islamic party leader in Israel, qualitatively, and his power is greater even than that of Naftali Bennett, his puppet who [only] officially bears the title of Prime Minister.