Officials in United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas’ inner circle recounted on Monday that over the past 24 hours, the party leader has faced calls for his resignation following his visit to the central city of Lod, which has been a flash point for violence between Jews and Arabs over the past week.
On Sunday Abbas visited Lod as well as the Beit Yisrael synagogue in the city - one of the houses of worship that was set on fire during clashes.
During the visit, Abbas met with Lod Mayor Yair Revivo, pledged to aid in rehabilitating the city and said, “even in times of war, Islamic values forbid harming holy places. Just as we are angry when someone attacks a mosque, we are angry when someone attacks a synagogue, and especially if the attack came from Muslims. It was a mistake. We must begin rehabilitating the synagogue in Lod.”
Abbas’ statements sparked ire within the party. The UAL leader has faced mass criticism on social media, and sources in UAL say that the calls for his resignation are coming even from his closest advisors.
“Abbas made a mistake,” one senior official who is close to him said, adding, “many saw the visit as a radical step that is disrespectful to the Arab community, and there’s much anger about what’s been going on. Mansour is strong, but things are changing. His position is in danger.”
Another source in the party said, “How problematic is Abbas’ situation? We’ll see in the coming days. We need a little time to see where it’s going, but it seems he’s lost influence.”
As a result of the growing pressure in the UAL, Abbas has lost some flexibility politically and now it will be hard for him to enter coalition talks that are seen as controversial. First and foremost, the rage against him will make it difficult for him to support a direct vote for prime minister. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been attempting to gain Abbas’ support for such a move.
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On Sunday, Abbas sounded hesitant regarding the direct voting bill in an interview for Kan 11 News. “The bill for direct election of the prime minister diminishes our political power and therefore our position is that we are uninterested in it. Anyone who wants to change our mind will have to prove that it does not weaken our political standing,” Abbas said.
Abbas wrote a Facebook post on Sunday in Arabic, in which he attempted to calm tensions: “Today I visited Lod, and there I met the mayor by chance. During the meeting he suggested I visit the synagogue that was torched as a step toward reconciliation, and I took him up on his offer. People saw what the Hebrew media broadcast - the visit with the mayor and the synagogue. My ideology is clear and I will not abandon it. There are those who will twist the facts and take words and events out of context.”
Abbas was elected as chairman of the UAL through a primary and he cannot be fired. However, if there is a fifth election cycle, UAL is expected to hold a new primary. The biggest threats toward Abbas reference such a scenario, in which he would have to face reelection while fending off criticism from those who oppose his choices and commitment to pragmatism.