U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides joined United Arab List party head Mansour Abbas for dinner in the northern city of Maghar on Saturday, in a rare visit to an Israeli lawmaker’s private home.
“Great night with [Mansour Abbas] and his family who graciously opened their home to me for dinner. Love this guy!!” Nides, who was appointed by President Joe Biden last year, tweeted on Sunday.
He shared a picture of himself and Abbas’ family on the roof of their home, overlooking the lights of nearby communities in northern Israel.
Journalist Suleiman Maswadeh, a correspondent for Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, wrote in reply to the ambassador’s tweet that the visit is “an honor that not every Knesset member receives, certainly an Arab Knesset member.” The American ambassador in Israel is usually seen as the most senior foreign diplomat in the country, as a result of Israel’s strong ties with the United States and reliance on U.S. support in various arenas.
For Abbas, the ambassador’s rare visit could be used as a way to show his growing political relevance and influence. His Islamist party shocked the political system last year when it became the first Arab party to join Israel’s governing coalition. Since then, the United Arab List has been locked in a bitter rivalry with the Joint List, a conglomeration of several Arab and left-wing parties, to which Abbas’ party belonged before splitting due to policy disagreements.
The Joint List has blasted him for taking part in the government, and criticizes him often from the opposition. Abbas’ main argument in reply has been that in order to gain influence, Arab-Israeli parties must strive to be part of the government instead of criticizing its policies from the opposition.
Political commentator Wadei Awawdy of the Nazareth-based Nas Radio told Haaretz that the meeting with Nides could also hurt Abbas’ standing among certain Arab voters in Israel.
- Arab Parties’ Fight for Political Control in Israel's Negev Reaches Boiling Point
- Odeh and Tibi's Algorithm Has Gone Awry
- Israel's Coalition Stalls Knesset Votes Due to Clash With Islamist Party
According to Awawdy, the meeting was part of the ambassador’s tour of several Arab townships, in order to better familiarize himself with Israel’s Arab community. “If Abbas was in a good place politically, it would do him good, it would give him more power,” Awawdy said, “but now he’s weak and it won’t help.”
The meeting “creates a cognitive dissonance, makes him like a caricature,” he continued. “It won’t help him and could even cause him damage, because the U.S., even under Biden, takes the side of Israel very strongly. [Arab Israelis] see what’s happening around the world and are saying it’s impossible to expect anything good from the U.S. for the Arabs or Palestinians.”
Neither Abbas nor the U.S. Embassy replied to requests for comment.