'Not in Anyone's Pocket': Islamist Party Leader Not Ruling Out Joining Netanyahu After Surprising Election Result

Israel election 2021 results ■ United Arab List's Mansour Abbas, who has become a potential kingmaker, says any deal will depend on solving problems facing Arab society ■ Likud lawmakers split on working with UAL

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Mansour Abbas, last year
Mansour Abbas, last yearCredit: Moti Milrod

United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas said Wednesday that he is not "obligated to any bloc or any candidate," after the Islamist party surpassed the electoral threshold, with almost 90 percent of the vote counted in Israel's unprecedented fourth election in under two  years.

The UAL currently has five out of 120 Knesset seats, after exit polls released on Tuesday said that the party had failed to enter the Knesset.

In an interview with Kan public television on Wednesday, Abbas said his party “was not obligated to any bloc or any candidate. We are not in anyone’s pocket, not on the right and not on the left.”

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The party chairman said that the United Arab List would only join a government that would commit to finding a solution to the problems of Arab society, adding he will ask to gain influence “not only with parliamentary tools but with government ones.”

Over the course of the night, United Arab List officials said they were confident the party would pass the electoral threshold, even when all the television exit polls predicted otherwise.

Abbas initially said that the party’s data showed it had received about 142,000 votes – the estimated number needed to pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold. He later told Army Radio that he knew that his party would garner four seats, the minimum required to enter the Knesset, and that he hoped to maintain the fifth seat as well.

The number two on the party slate, the former mayor of Sakhnin Mazen Ghanayim, said on Tuesday that the data the party received from all its election campaign offices shows it had crossed the electoral threshold, despite the bleak atmosphere at the beginning of the evening.

Ghanayim added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot rely on the party supporting him or his government, and promised to “do what is best for our public. We will go back to the tens of thousands of voters and ask their opinion on how to decide.”

The party has extended its hand for reconciliation with the Joint List, after the split between the parties prior to the election, he said.

Likud split on Abbas deal 

Although the United Arab List leader signaled he was not tied down to either bloc, the party's involvement in forming a right-wing coalition has divided Likud.

In an interview with Channel 12 News, Likud lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi said on Wednesday that the deal was "better than a fifth election," even though it wasn't optimal. "We've presented our preference," he said, "Our preference is a government made up of at least 61 Knesset members who support the central ideas of the nationalist camp. I hope this happens."

Noting that Mansour Abbas "said for this entire campaign, that he would support any coalition that formulates a plan to deal with the issues in his sector," Hanegbi stressed Likud would cooperate and even address the community's issues regardless. 

"Whether or not it's accepted in the Arab community, we will work as we have worked to strengthen coexistence with the Arab public," he said.  

Earlier Tuesday, Likud MK Miki Zohar said in an interview with Army Radio that a coalition with the support of United Arab List is "unfeasible," and later clarified that "the only realistic option is establishing a right-wing government."

However, after the report that the United Arab List had crossed the electoral threshold, Zohar tweeted: "It is our duty to do everything, I mean everything, in order to prevent a fifth election. We must exhaust every existing political option in order to establish a government that will work for all of Israel's citizens – because that's what's important right now to our country."

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