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If Bibi Needs an Arab Party, He’ll Be Abu Yair

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Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on Thursday.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on Thursday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The question is not whether Benjamin Netanyahu wants to lead a move toward integration with Arab Israelis and political partnership with an Arab party. The only question is whether he will have a choice. Exactly, but exactly, like what happened in the other camp (unless someone really believes Yair Lapid woke up one day and no longer saw “Zoabis” before his eyes but legitimate partners, only because he “grew up” and not as a result of a political stalemate).

We can also forego the journalistic mission of obtaining the correspondence that proves there were coalition talks between Likud and United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas. Does anyone in Israel really need proof of this? After all, everyone knows there were such talks. Only Netanyahu’s opponents get upset at the sweeping denial by Netanyahu and his people, and see this as evidence of a dramatic lie, and that if Netanyahu’s supporters see the proof with their own eyes, they’ll “wise up” and get rid of Netanyahu. It’s not a lie if everyone knows it – it’s a joke at your expense.

Netanyahu’s strength is in his ability to drive his opponents crazy by the simplest method: Say one thing and do another. Promise something and go back on it, send up a trial balloon and burst it. So he said the Arabs are streaming to the polls, then he did the opposite and conducted talks with Abbas, then he denied it. Hold on, at Bar-Ilan University he spoke of two states, then he went back on it, then he came round again. But wait, first he renounced the “Hebron shooter” Elor Azaria, then he phoned Azaria’s father. He cancelled the refugee agreement with the UN High Commissioner, even though he himself had promoted it. Only his opponents are busy with this lack of consistency. His supporters couldn’t care less.

Likud MK David Amsalem was asked this week if he would rule out a coalition with the United Arab List and he replied: “If Mansour Abbas wants to join us after we have 61 [MKs], he’s welcome.” Amsalem is an important voice in Likud. In the racist, incendiary discourse Netanyahu dictates against the UAL, it is also a brave voice which testifies that the “experiment” worked. And what’s more – that it goes on. It proves there is willingness in both camps to walk the path Abbas paved.

This is a hopeful development that Israeli citizenship can have a revival, and we must rise above political camps and welcome it. (Ah, what the hell is there to welcome? These Amsalem types never grow up; at best they’re a trial balloon for their white master. Who needs them?) It doesn’t matter at all that later Netanyahu disassociated himself from Amsalem’s statement and incited against the UAL in the manner of the lowest tweet and repeated the lie that the UAL thing never happened. Whatever you say, Abu Yair. The future in any case belongs to Amsalem, not Netanyahu.

And to prepare for the future, it’s best we recall that this is not about coincidence, good will or an ideological transformation, but a political program born as a solution to the split on the right that prevented Netanyahu from forming a government after the April 2019 election, and led to the Knesset’s dissolution a month later. Natan Eshel, Netanyahu’s consigliere, published this in detail in Haaretz and Makor Rishon.

Both of them saw at the time that the political stalemate was real, that the only way to break it was to legitimize the Arab lawmakers and make a political alliance with the Arab public like Likud had with the ultra-Orthodox. “We must link our fate with Israel’s Arabs,” Eshel wrote, black on white, adding: “There is no reason … that the Muslim minority can’t live here comfortably in full cooperation, including partnership in the leadership of the state. (Haaretz Hebrew edition, June 16, 2019.)

So it doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says. The Jewish stalemate is the guarantee of Jewish-Arab partnership in the leadership of the state.

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