The fourth consecutive Israeli election has thrown up a fractured mandate yet again – which means that no party or bloc has been able to secure a simple majority in order to form a stable government in the Jewish nation. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party –Likud could win only 30 seats, still short of the majority mark of 61. Netanyahu’s party has, however, emerged as the single largest political force in the country’s parliament. What has also emerged after the March 23 elections is that an Arab Muslim could play the role of an unprecedented kingmaker – deciding the fate of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Whether Netanyahu is to continue as Prime Minister or not has come to depend a lot on the head of a conservative Islamist party. Fully aware of his newfound stature within Israel, Mansour Abbas’s primetime address was carried live by multiple Israeli broadcasters, underscoring his pivotal role in determining whether a stable governing coalition is possible after last week’s election. On Thursday, Abbas quoted the Koran and said he was “a proud Arab and a Muslim.” His United Arab List won just four seats in last week’s parliamentary elections. In his primetime address delivered in fluent Hebrew, the Ra’am party chief said, “This is the time to create a different reality for all citizens in the country.”
Abbas has revealed that he is in touch with both the pro-Netanyahu as well as anti-incumbent blocs, although he has not explicitly made his choice clear. However, Mansour Abbas is all set to extend his support to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What makes us say so? Well, the leader of a conservative Islamist party, whose supremo identified himself as a “proud Arab and Muslim” before identifying as an Israeli, gave the issue of Palestine a rather grand miss during his primetime address.
You read that right! The word ‘Palestine’ was not uttered by the man even once. This is reason enough for us to believe that Abbas has made his choice. Had he been extending support to the anti-Netanyahu bloc; he would have most definitely made a reference to the Palestinian conflict. Yet, being an Arab Muslim in Israel whose political party panders only to the said community, Abbas giving Palestine a miss has pretty much settled the debate of who is returning to power in Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu is no free-Palestine crusader. Instead, he is a Jewish nationalist whose ultimate goal as of now remains the annexation of the West Bank. The fact that Abbas did not mention the Palestine issue is signal enough that he is all set to extend his support to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Importantly, the lost cause of Palestine has died a death even among Arab nations like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. They too have normalised ties with Israel under the Abraham Accords.
As such, it makes no sense for a politician in Israel to make a suicidal move by harping on the Palestine issue, when in reality, it has become a non-issue around the world. Instead, the Ra’am party chief was reconciliatory, inclusive and statesman-like in his address to the Jewish people. The stage seems set for PM Netanyahu making a comeback with his government – this time around, with the help of an Islamic Arab party. Unprecedented times, surely!