Bennett's No. 2 Meets With Key Arab Lawmaker as Coalition Talks Continue

Mansour Abbas raises a demand for one of his party members to be named deputy public security minister, while Shaked sharply opposes the idea

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset, last week.
Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas met with Yamina lawmaker Ayelet Shaked on Monday as part of negotiations toward the creation of a coalition government headed by Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

Members of the parties opposed to the continuation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule believe Abbas will support the formation of a Bennett-Lapid government if it comes to a vote in the Knesset. Abbas has said a number of times in recent weeks that he will consider backing any coalition if it agrees to his party’s demands. Lapid and Abbas have spoken several times recently, and while Abbas has not publicly confirmed his intentions, it is widely assumed that he will back the coalition.

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During the meeting, Abbas raised a demand for one of his party members to be named deputy public security minister, with negotiating teams expected to discuss the possibility over the next day. Bennett and New Hope Chairman Gieon Sa'ar said they are inclined to oppose such an appointment, but have not reached a final decision. Shaked sharply opposed the idea. 

Mansour Abbas at a committee hearing, last week.Credit: Noam Moskowitz / Knesset

Shaked, on her part, is demanding that she be given a spot on the Knesset Judicial Appointments Committee instead of Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli, saying that this is her condition for Yamina joining the government.

According to sources in Yesh Atid involved in talks with the UAL, its demands are primarily economic. Abbas wants funds to be earmarked for a program to boost education in the Arab community and combat organized crime, and to head a Knesset committee that would direct the money to it. The sources also said he had demanded the revocation of a contentious 2017 law that made punishment for construction violations much more severe and has the most effect on Arab towns, where the planning process can take decades. He has also asked to be named as one of the Knesset’s deputy speakers, according to the sources, but has not demanded that the Nation-State Law be amended or revoked.

Sources in Abbas’ party think his likely support for a Bennett-Lapid coalition has two reasons. The first is the anger directed at him after he visited a synagogue that had been set on fire in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod, during which he vowed to help reconstruction.

The visit prompted anger from members of his party, including calls for him to resign. The formation of a coalition would help him avoid being forced to undergo a primary challenge. The second reason is the result of internal polling recently conducted by the UAL that points to a significant drop in its public support – with some showing it failing to reach the electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset.

Meanwhile, Yesh Atid has been holding talks with members of the Joint List, and in particular with Ahmad Tibi, chairman of Ta’al, one of the three parties that make up the electoral alliance. Yesh Atid wants to ensure that it can count on some lawmakers to abstain or not be present during a Knesset vote on the formation of the coalition, should this be necessary.

Abbas previously considered demanding the position of a deputy minister, but backed off of the idea after the military operation in Gaza this month.

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