The United Arab List (UAL) will become the first party of Palestinian citizens of Israel to participate in a governing coalition after agreeing to join the new Israeli government it will be led by Naftali Bennett – a former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who had called for the annexation of the occupied West Bank.
UAL leader Mansour Abbas set aside his differences with Bennett, the 49-year-old former head of a settler organization, and centrist leader Yair Lapid to join an eight-party coalition around the world. political spectrum aimed at ending Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.
Abbas, 47, who also serves as vice president of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – which split from the northern branch of the now-defunct Islamic Movement in 1995, led by Sheikh Raed Salah – says the measure will help improve the lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20% of the roughly nine million citizens.
But many Palestinians fiercely criticize his decision.
The coalition deal came after the March 23 elections in which an alliance led by Netanyahu’s Likud party was formed as the largest party in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, but fell below the majority. of the 61 seats needed to form a government. It was Israel’s fourth national vote in two years.
Bennett, who served as Defense Minister under Netanyahu, justified joining hands with Lapid’s Yesh Atid party to avoid another election.
With 17 seats, the Yesh Atid party is the second largest party in the Knesset, with 120 members, while Bennett’s Yamina party has six seats.
Bennett and Lapid will take turns as prime minister, and Bennett will take the first two-year term.
Representation of Palestinian parties
UAL of Abbas it broke from the joint Arab list, the main coalition of Palestinian parties in Israel, ahead of the March elections. Abbas decided to run independently, arguing at the time that he would work with Netanyahu and other right-wing parties to improve the living conditions of Palestinian citizens in Israel.
The division weakened the representation of Palestinian parties in the Knesset, which in last year’s vote obtained a record 15 seats in parliament.
The UAL, with four parliamentary seats, joined Bennett and Lapid’s coalition to oust Netanyahu just before Wednesday’s deadline and said it had reached an agreement to allocate 53 billion shekels ($ 16 billion) to improve the infrastructure and combating crime in Palestine. -majority populations of Israel.
The UAL also announced that it had guaranteed that the new government would stop the demolition of Palestinian houses built without permission in Israel and that it would officially recognize the Bedouin cities of the Negev desert, a stronghold of the Abbas party.
“We decided to join the government to change the balance of political forces in the country,” Abbas said in a message to supporters after signing the coalition agreement.
But Diana Buttu, a Palestinian political analyst and lawyer, told Al Jazeera that Abbas had “made the big mistake of thinking he could be an Israeli king.”
“He helped the coalition by tying it, but as Palestinians, it is not our role to be a councilor. We are opposed to this system. Our role is to protect our community, ”he said.
Buttu said Abbas and his party “will gain nothing” as a small part of a broad and heavy coalition.
“The idea that somehow Abbas will be able to gather enough support even to introduce legislation that would counter some of the racist legislation that Palestinians face is a joke,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous, very naive and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Israeli politics and Zionism.”
Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center, which advocates for Palestinian defenders in Israel, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinian community in Israel achieved some economic and social benefits on issues such as housing and crime.
“But again, the Netanyahu government was willing to grant some of these demands to the Arab communities. So it’s not a new thing, ”he said.
But Farah said Abbas’ decision to focus on these demands, rather than addressing the Israeli occupation and systematic oppression, shows “a lack of vision among Palestinian leaders.”
He warned that, regardless of what was promised to Abbas, it is likely to be a transitional government that could be replaced by a more right-wing administration once Netanyahu is out of the picture.
“And during that time, there will be no peace process or reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews,” he said. “And there are no serious changes in the legal status of the Palestinian community.”
“A direct force”
But, according to IALhim Hijazi, UAL general secretary, the party’s decision to join the coalition government refers to “achieving existential goals” for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Listing issues such as housing, violence and crime and the unrecognized peoples of the Negev desert, he said joining the coalition aims to address these urgent issues and “strengthen the role of the Arab factions by converting them in a direct and essential force in politics “.
“This will benefit the Palestinian community and allow it access to its rights that were denied to it because of previous racist policies, and keep Palestinian parties out of circles of influence,” Hijazi said.
“Our entry into negotiations was based on political promises, including the government’s promises to change the policies that discriminate against us and the commitment to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue,” he told Al Jazeera.
Some Palestinians say 11 days ago Israeli assault in Gaza that left at least 253 people dead, including 66 children and more than 1,900 injured, has further exacerbated feelings among many Palestinians that Abbas is wrong to be part of a government that will continue to impose military occupation on the Palestinian people and a blockade against the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli attack left nearly 17,000 residential and commercial units damaged or destroyed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The fighting came after weeks of growing tensions as Israeli security forces cracked down on peaceful protests against the forced expulsion of Palestinian families in the occupied neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan of East Jerusalem.
Israeli police forces as well assaulted the Al-Aqsa Mosque was formed several times during the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with rubber bullets and tear gas against the faithful.
“With the attacks on Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza, and the political upheaval they provoked, the Palestinian people have specifically told Abbas that they are no longer welcome among themselves in places like Sheikh Jarrah,” Buttu said.
“People have come out very strong; half condemning him for having taken this unnecessary step and half pitying him because he was forced between a rock and a difficult place to remain relevant in politics ”.
Sami Abou Shehadeh, leader of the Palestinian nationalist Balad party, said Abbas has alienated many Palestinians by joining the coalition.
“Abbas’s decision to be part of an extreme government, which will work against the interests of the Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupied areas, is very dangerous,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Imagine being the head of a Palestinian party and not being able to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque or join a funeral procession in Umm al-Fahm because people would expel you,” Abu Shehadeh said.
“Mansour has become an outcast.”