Many Palestinian activists have fiercely criticised the leader of the United Arab List (UAL) party, Mansour Abbas for forming coalition with seven Israeli political parties that ousted the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, ending his 12-year racist administration.
The activists believe that the decision by Abbas showed a ‘fundamental misunderstanding’ of Israeli politics, adding that forming coalition with the new Israeli government, headed by a right-wing Jewish nationalist, Naftali Bennett, will not end its apartheid, racist legislation against Palestine.
UAL became the first party of Palestinian citizens of Israel to take part in a governing coalition after it agreed to join Naftali Bennett – a former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who had called for the annexation of the occupied West Bank.
Mansour Abbas, leader of the UAL, set aside his differences with Bennett, the 49-year-old former head of a settler organisation and centrist leader, Yair Lapid to sign up to a coalition of eight parties from across the political spectrum that ended Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.
Abbas, 47, who also serves as deputy chairman of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – which in 1995 split from the now-outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement led by Sheikh Raed Salah – says the move will help him improve the lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the approximately nine million citizens.
Muslim News findings however revealed that many Palestinians are fiercely critical of Abbas’ decision.
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 kingmaker”.
“He helped the coalition by cobbling it together, but as Palestinians, it is not our role to be kingmaker. We are in opposition to this system. Our role is to protect our community,” she said.
Buttu said Abbas and his party “will gain nothing” as a small part of a wide, unwieldy coalition.
“The idea that somehow Abbas is going to be able to muster up enough support to even introduce legislation that is going to counter some of the racist legislation that Palestinians face is a joke,” she said.
“It’s laughable, very naïve and displays a fundamental misunderstanding of Israeli politics and Zionism.”
Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center, which advocates for Palestinians in Israel, told Al Jazeera there was potential for some social and economic gains to be made by the Palestinian community in Israel on issues such as housing and crime.
“But then again, Netanyahu’s government was willing to grant Arab communities some of these demands. So it’s not a new thing,” he said.
But Farah said Abbas’s decision to focus on such demands, rather than addressing the Israeli occupation and systematic oppression, shows “a lack of vision among the Palestinian leadership”.
He warned that, regardless of what was promised to Abbas, this 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 nor reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews,” he said. “And no serious changes to the legal status of the Palestinian community.”
‘A direct force’
But according to Ibrahim Hijazi, secretary-general of the UAL, the party’s decision to join the coalition government relates to “achieving existential goals” for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Listing issues such as housing, violence and crime, and unrecognised villages in the Negev desert, he said that joining the coalition aims to address such pressing matters and to “strengthen the role of Arab factions by making them a direct and essential force in politics”.
“This will benefit the Palestinian community and allow it to access its rights which were denied to it due to previous racist policies, and Palestinian parties remaining outside of the circles of influence,” said Hijazi.
“Our entry into negotiations was based on political promises, including pledges by the government to change policies that discriminate against us and a pledge of commitment to reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue,” he told Al Jazeera.
Some Palestinians say the recent 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza which left at least 253 people dead, including 66 children, and more than 1,900 wounded, has further exacerbated feelings among many Palestinians that Abbas is wrong to have joined a government that will continue to impose military occupation on the Palestinian people and a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli onslaught left nearly 17,000 residential and commercial units damaged or destroyed, according to the UN’s 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 East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
Israeli police forces also stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound several times during the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, using rubber bullets and tear gas against worshippers.
“With the attacks on Sheikh Jarrah and on Gaza, and the political upheaval they caused, Palestinian people have specifically told Abbas that he is no longer welcome among them in places like Sheikh Jarrah,” said Buttu.
“People have been coming out very strongly; half condemning him for taking this unnecessary step and half pitying him because he forced himself between a rock and a hard place to stay relevant in politics.”
Sami Abou Shehadeh, leader of the Palestinian nationalist Balad Party, said that Abbas has alienated himself from many Palestinians by joining the coalition.
“Abbas’s decision to be part of an extreme government, that will work against the interests of the Palestinians inside Israel and in occupied areas, is a very dangerous one,” 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 the people would kick you out,” said Abou Shehadeh.
“Mansour has become an outcast.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
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