Palestinians in Gaza Outraged as Islamist Party Head Mansour Abbas Agrees to Israeli Government
New Israeli government could make things worse for the Palestinians, analyst says.
[Gaza City] With just about one hour before the deadline, Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Islamist Ra’am-United Arab List party signed an agreement to support the coalition government cobbled together by centrist Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and right-wing Yamina party head Naftali Bennett.
Lapid informed Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin late Wednesday night that he had succeeded in forming a new national unity government, more than two years after the first of four parliamentary elections led to an extended deadlock in Israeli politics.
Palestinians in Gaza accused Abbas of being an “opportunistic” Muslim Brotherhood Islamist.
Gaza resident Ounallah Abusafia, 67, told The Media Line of Abbas that “as one of the Brotherhood, when the opportunity arises, he seeks his own interests only.”
“During the escalation on the Gaza Strip, [Abbas] stayed away from [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu out of fear of the harsh criticism and now he’s with Naftali Bennett. He claims to care and work for the good of the 48-Palestinians,” or Arab Israelis, Abusafia added, “while the truth is he only cares about himself.”
Gaza-based political analyst and expert in Israeli affairs, Hassan Lafi, said Abbas’ motivations run deeper.
“Mansour Abbas is a controversial figure who, obviously, doesn’t represent the 48-Palestinians,” Lafi told The Media Line. “He wants to get in the new government to get as many personal gains as he can, and to create an alternative leadership of the 48-Palestinians, other than the currently existing one.”
Formed ahead of the 2015 elections the Joint List, led by Aymen Odeh, was made up of four of Israel’s Arab-majority parties: Hadash, Ta’al and Balad, and Abbas’ Ra’am, and became the Israeli government’s third-largest faction. Ra’am ran separately from the Joint List in the March 23 elections and garnered four seats. The Joint List earned six seats in the last election.
In March, young demonstrators kicked Abbas, who has been a member of Israel’s Knesset since 2019, out of a demonstration condemning “the killings and the complicity of the Israel Police” held in the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm.
Abbas thinks, according to Lafi, that he can coexist with the “Zionist Israeli project” by engaging in its political arena. “I believe this is an elusive goal given the current Israeli attitude,” Lafi said. “For example, Ayelet Shaked, Bennett’s deputy, has totally rejected any kind of Abbas’ influence in the Interior Ministry because she considers it an interference in Israeli features of the state built only for Jews, where no Palestinians or Arab can have any influence.”
Suhair Amer, a Gazan mother, told The Media Line, “It’s shameful that one Palestinian prefers to join the Israeli government in killing his own people. He knows that any decision coming from their side will be against our existence. Anyway, it won’t make a difference on the ground because they will not give him what he wants.”
Palestinians do not expect there to be any fundamental difference in their situation under the new unity government, which comprises a coalition of parties from the center, right, and left, including Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Labor, Yamina, Yisrael Beitenu, Meretz, New Hope, and Ra’am.
“Whether it’s Netanyahu or Bennett or anyone else, it won’t make a significant difference for us as Palestinians, especially in Gaza, because Israel’s policy toward us is the same and won’t change ever,” Abdelraouf Alajouri, 45, told The Media Line.
Alajouri expects there to be another round of fighting between Israel and Gaza. “Now Bennett wants to prove he’s strong enough to face the Palestinian revolution, especially in Gaza. Maybe more restrictions on our people in the West Bank will take place as a result, too,” he said.
With so many members of the new government coming from the right and far right, the Palestinian’s situation could get worse, Lafi opined.
“The chaotic unrest surrounding the Israeli political scene now will force the [lawmakers in the new government] not to move forward with any strategic decision regarding the Palestinian cause. They will not go on with the two-state solution, for example, nor with a satisfying prisoner swap deal,” he said, claiming that “the leaked political program of [Bennett’s] government shows a focus on the internal economic and social issues only. Nothing is addressing the core Palestinian issues.”
“This absolutely reflects negatively on the Palestinian political future,” he said.
Because the agreed-upon government includes an inconsistent mix of different political and ideological backgrounds, Lafi does not expect it to last very long.
“With that much of ideological differences and disagreements, at the first discussion of a central issue the government will immediately collapse,” he said. “But even if that happens, they are still winners because, in my opinion, everyone’s hidden goal is to remove Netanyahu from the scene.”