Opinion |

Mansour Abbas Is the Authentic Voice of the Israeli Left

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, in October.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, in October.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

When the prime minister and defense minister pull out all the stops to convince us that the war on terror, control of the Temple Mount, or the decision whether to assassinate Yahya Sinwar or let him live, are free of any political consideration, they lie.

Political considerations are what dictate how the security forces operate on the Temple Mount, they dictate whether Israel will embark on a large-scale military operation, and they created the equation in which United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas’s reaction is an inseparable and fundamental part of Israel’s balance of deterrence.

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Benny Gantz may affect a general’s diction, look straight at the camera, and declare that Israel is fully sovereign on the Temple Mount, and that only security matters and freedom of worship will dictate visiting and prayer arrangements there. But only a month ago, MK Yair Golan (Meretz) explained, with his characteristic bluntness, that “our goal is first of all that the Temple Mount doesn’t blow up, and to maintain the status quo. When we form a policy it reflects the wants and needs of the coalition members, so obviously we take the United Arab List’s wishes into account, and that’s OK with me.” Oops. “It sounds like he wants to break up the government,” MK Nir Orbach (Yamina) fumed at him.

Stop panicking. Meretz won’t bring the government down – it will leave the job to Abbas. Abbas, who knows a thing or two more than his colleagues called “the left,” has presented the government with a reasonable ladder to climb down. Anything agreed upon between Israel and Jordan will be acceptable to the UAL as well. Which is to say, let go of national pride and hollow prestige, negotiate with the country to which Israel itself has given administrative authority on the Temple Mount, and thus save the government and defuse the ticking time bomb there. But with the scent of elections wafting, the Temple Mount is not “just” a prayer and visitation site – it will be a component in the political platform, and any decision regarding it is soaked through with political considerations.

Gaza and the West Bank are tantamount to the Temple Mount in this regard. It is not only the festival surrounding the potential assassination of Yahya Sinwar that lies on political foundations, completely detached from any security benefit; Israel’s reaction to terror attacks is bound to the scenarios of political feasibility. Can a government tottering on the brink of collapse drag the country into a military escapade? More importantly, is a military operation worth the immediate breakup of the government, given that the UAL will no longer be able to remain in the coalition? Or is it because the government has reached the end of its road that it is time to go on the offensive, to reap some political benefit, something to run on?

The effort to market “the security of Israel’s citizens” as the only factor in dealing with terrorism rests solely on the need to keep this government alive. The political balance of deterrence is what defines the diplomatic and military balance of deterrence. Therein lies Abbas’s real power and the focal point of his influence, despite not being a cabinet member. And if that weren’t enough, the parties calling themselves “the left,” such as Labor and Meretz, have raised his political net weight when they gladly renounced the burden of their ideological convictions, deputizing Abbas to speak for them.

Thus, freed of the mantle of fake national Zionism, Abbas is not only the voice of some Arab voters, he is the authentic voice of what should be the Israeli left. Thanks to him, Labor and Meretz can retain the purity of security patriotism, nod and publish some meaningless condemnation, like political mannequins displayed on a shelf. They won’t be blamed for breaking up the government. Abbas, unlike them, is the architect who comes to work holding a compass and a square, drawing the lines which the government may not exceed. And note that he is operating only within the framework set by the government for itself, recusing itself from dealing with controversial issues. This is a lesson Labor and Meretz have missed.

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