Arab Lawmakers, Don't Trust Netanyahu

Haaretz Editorial
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Members the Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab parties, Mansour Abbas (R), Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi.
Members the Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab parties, Mansour Abbas (R), Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi. Credit: Rami Shllush
Haaretz Editorial

The Joint List alliance has been grappling for months with an acute internal crisis that threatens the continued cooperation among its four factions – Hadash, United Arab List, Ta’al and Balad.

Internal disagreements and power struggles erupted in the party immediately after the government was formed, from the recommendation of Benny Gantz to issues like the conversion bill.

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In recent months the quarrels have become worse, after United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas began talks with Likud figures and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides. Abbas was attacked by his colleagues in the party and by circles in Arab society, who maintained it was untenable to cooperate with a prime minister who keeps inciting against the Arab public, who called the members of Joint List terror supporters and who acted to pass the nation-state law.

Abbas dismissed the criticism, claiming that his course of action would enable him to play a role in the political game and accumulate achievements like the implementation of the program to combat crime, which Netanyahu promised to submit to the cabinet within two weeks.

At the same time, and perhaps as a counter reaction, Gantz and Kahol Lavan opened direct talks with Joint List chairman and lawmaker Ayman Odeh on their plan to suspend the Kaminitz law, which, if carried out, will have harsh repercussions on Arab communities.

Netanyahu and Gantz’s cynicism screams to the heavens. Netanyahu’s sole motivation is his political survival while Gantz, in the hour of truth, chose to join a criminally indicted man rather than a coalition supported by the Arab party.

The moves these two are discussing with the Arab politicians are ones that the state is obliged to make for its Arab citizens, regardless of the political needs of Likud and Kahol Lavan’s leaders.

Abbas wants to have significant political clout on the one hand, and Arab society has justified demands on the other hand. But these must not make them forget with whom they’re dealing. Suffice it to see what Netanyahu did to Kahol Lavan to understand that he is a dangerous political rival and an expert at the divide and rule tactic.

Anyone who wishes to move from the political arena’s margins to its center may find himself out of the game altogether. Experience teaches that the most beneficial framework for the Arab society, one that can obtain and preserve the achievements it lawfully deserves, is the Joint List.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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