Opinion |

Israel's Situation Has Never Been So Arab. Here's How

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas at a press conference, on Monday.
United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas at a press conference, on Monday.Credit: Emil Salman
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Israeli democracy is celebrating. An Arab citizen has suddenly been catapulted into a pivotal position. There is no better way of describing the most important development in the annals of the Zionist state. From a situation in which Arab citizens lived under military rule, had their land stolen, were depicted as terrorists and as a fifth column, they – namely this one Arab called Mansour Abbas – have managed to shatter the walls of the Arab ghetto and bring aboard many Zionist Jews willing to walk with him through fire and water, on condition that he supports/doesn’t support Benjamin Netanyahu, each according to their preference.

In no Arab country has there ever been a situation in which a single politician, who is not part of the government, has been able to hold his country’s politics by its private parts. In Israel, such a scene should have caused an earthquake, as in a collision of tectonic plates, yet it is being received as a humdrum affair.

Mansour Abbas is here, he’s there, giving interviews, declaring and deciding, warning and arbitrating, negotiating with Lapid and Bennett, with Netanyahu and Gantz – he’ll determine what government Israel has next. If he doesn’t deserve the Israel Prize, he should at least be invited to light a ceremonial torch next Independence Day.

This enormous feat is Abbas’ achievement, as well as that of Israel’s democracy, which provides equal opportunities to anyone. But before diving into the depths of euphoria in order to wade into the foul waters of a new democracy, one should devote a few words to the character of the Arab Abbas.

For one or two moments he was seemingly stripped of his Arab identity. He represents four fingers, four votes, just like Bennett represents seven and Gantz eight. All of a sudden, he’s not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, no one cares that he’s against the LGBTQ community, his nationalist positions have apparently faded away.

The hatred directed against him or the back-slapping he gets are not due to him being a Muslim Arab, but to the fact that he knows how to maneuver his four fingers, to fold them and stick them in the eyes of other politicians, to use them to grant or deny. He’s a political player on a closed pitch reserved only for invitees, and he’s the guest of honor. Not as an Arab.

The only two people who treat him with “due respect,” who don’t demean him, who don’t see him only as a set of fingers and are even afraid of him, are Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. His Arab and Muslim character are for them the main issue, the only issue. Without these there is no meaning to the Arab threat facing the Jewish state, and without him, the new Zionism would be devoid of content.

They’re willing to lose an opportunity to rule and push Netanyahu closer to prison just so an Arab does not become part of Israel’s government, or support it from outside the coalition. They’d prefer it if he weren’t even a Knesset member.

In contrast to the cowards who are willing to sit with anyone and make extremely generous promises, they need to preserve the enemy as an enemy. It’s an existential necessity. If Netanyahu is willing to shatter the Jewish state and sit with an Arab for his personal gain, they have a serious ideology, a national one, and Abbas is the fiddle they’re playing. He’s the perfect enemy, the purpose of their existence – it’s him or them.

But that’s it. Abbas’ moment of glory is about to end. He was meant to be a disposable item when the Jews had no other choice. Because when we go for a fifth round of elections, Abbas will return to being an Arab, a Muslim and a terrorist, one which no Jewish government can rely on – not on him or on anyone of his ilk.

Any government that is formed, headed by Netanyahu, Bennett or Lapid, will be a right-wing government, perhaps a gentler one, perhaps more polite, perhaps not. They will see to it that the Abbases and Zoabis will never be able to shake the foundations of the Jewish state and replace the basic rules that determine the state’s approach to its Arab citizens, as formulated in the nation-state law.

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