For much of the last seven decades, the vast majority of Arab citizens of Israel have chosen to remain on the margins of Israel’s political system.
They have certainly voted, formed political parties, and been elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
However, they have consistently refused to participate in forming and maintaining an Israeli governing coalition.
Until last summer.
That’s when Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party with four seats in the Knesset, decided to breakaway from the Joint List, a group of other Israeli Arab legislators who have always steadfastly remained in the opposition.
Abbas and his team decided they wanted to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from office and assist Naftali Bennett, a right-wing protégé of Netanyahu, become the new prime minister.
[Note: Mansour Abbas has no relation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.]
As ALL ISRAEL NEWS reported in May 2021, Bennett could never have become prime minister without the help of Abbas and Ra’am.
Now, fresh polling reveals a high degree of support by Israeli Arabs for the move Abbas made.
Indeed, the study “found that 21% of Arab respondents are extremely supportive of United Arab List Party’s (Ra’am) membership in the coalition, 23% are very supportive, 24% somewhat supportive and 32% not supportive,” reported the Jewish News Service (JNS).
Dr. Doron Navot of the University of Haifa conducted the poll in February, interviewing 701 Israeli Arabs.
A report in the Jerusalem Post shared more data from the survey:
- “68% of Israeli Arabs at least somewhat approve of the inclusion of Arabic political parties in Israel’s governing coalitions.”
- “While 32% of respondents said they were not supportive of the inclusion of Arab parties in the Israeli government,” 55% said that conditions for Israeli Arabs have improved during the past year (14% who strongly agree, 17% who agree, and 24% who somewhat agree).”
- Meanwhile, “a staggering 67% of Israeli Arabs surveyed said they are optimistic about conditions improving in the future.”
“The Arab public is tired of sitting on the sidelines of politics, and wants to exert influence from within the coalition,” said University of Haifa faculty member Dr. Muhammad Khalaila. “However, there are still many within the Arab sector who do not think that the United Arab List has any significant achievements to its credit.”
“The very same Israeli public that did not agree to share a government with the United Arab List about a year ago is now our partner,” said Abbas. “Now, there is growing support among the Jewish population for Arab participation in government. Every day, I meet people who wear a kippah—traditional and ultra-Orthodox Jews, and some who identify as Likud voters—who understand and accept our involvement. I certainly don’t see anger about how we managed to apparently ‘overthrow’ a right-wing government and help form a more diverse one.”