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The Forces Driving the Israeli Arab Sector from the Galilee to the Negev

The Jerusalem Center
(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

An issue that has become more central in Israeli considerations regarding peace and security involves the question of relations with the Israeli Arab community. The May 2021 war with Hamas in Gaza was accompanied by violent riots that occurred simultaneously in a large number of mixed cities (including Acre, Jaffa, Haifa, Lod, and Ramla), in Arab population centers in the Galilee, the Triangle, the center of the country, and in the Negev, and in areas adjacent to these districts. They were the most widespread disturbances of this type since the founding of the State of Israel.

They included expressions of dangerous physical violence against Jews and Jewish property (attempted lynching, arson, shooting, vandalism, and damage to vehicles), damage to the symbols of the state in a manner targeting its essence as a Jewish state (burning Israeli flags and changing street signs in a manner that cancels the Zionist enterprise), and verbal violence and incitement against the state, its identity, its citizens, and its security.

New research by the Jerusalem Center analyzes in depth the factors that led to this wave of violence, its leadership, and its participants. In addition, the research describes the infrastructure of the consciousness that resulted in this event and compares these events to similar riots in the Israeli Arab sector that occurred in 2000.

These analyses include:

Israel’s Arabs Rioted in May 2021. What Did We Learn and What Does the Future Hold?
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
Formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
The Israeli Arab Rioters Still Mourn the “Nakba” and Yearn for the “Return”
Nadav Shragai
A veteran Israeli journalist who has documented Jerusalem for Ha’aretz and Israel Hayom for over 30 years.
Were Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque the Driving Forces behind the Violence of May 2021?
Yoni Ben Menachem
Former director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator.
The Events of 2021 Requires Israel to Wake Up – and the Sooner the Better
Pinhas Inbari
A veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent
Israel’s Islamic Party (Ra’am): Pragmatism and Islamism According to Mansour Abbas
Lt.-Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
A former IDF military intelligence officer specializing in the Middle East and radical Islam, who was awarded the prize of the IDF Chief of Staff

Read the full report in Hebrew


Cartoon
(Social Networks)

Israel’s Arabs Rioted in May 2021. What Did We Learn and What Does the Future Hold?

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

Israeli Arabs rioted violently during Operation Guardians of the Walls in Gaza in May 2021. The riots were the most wide-ranging of their kind since the establishment of the State of Israel, even though the number of casualties during the October 2000 riots was larger. They took place simultaneously in a large number of mixed-population cities, in Arab communities in the Galilee, the “Triangle” concentration of Arab towns inside Israel and near the Green Line, in the central region, the Negev, and in areas adjacent to these Arab population centers. The violence included dangerous physical attacks against Jews and Jewish property (lynching attempts, arson, shooting, vandalism, damage to symbols aimed at denying the state’s Jewish identity, burning the state flag, and changing road signs as an expression of war against the Zionist enterprise). Verbal violence came in the form of incitement against the state, its identity, inhabitants, and security.

While many Israeli Arabs did not participate in the violent riots, only a few spoke out against it. Most of those who disagreed with the violence nevertheless showed an understanding of its motives, though they believed these did not justify harming life and property. Many Arab community leaders relied on sophistry to justify the violence.

The intensity and scope of the violent riots shocked and astonished the Jewish public, the government in Israel, and the security apparatus, including the Israel Security Agency and the police. It was much more than a surprise. No government agency even imagined that an event with such characteristics could occur. Within a few days, all the agencies and forces regrouped. However, the feeling shared by everyone was that there was a systemic failure here that requires an in-depth study of the events, their causes, their implications for the future, and the manner of preparation essential to prevent another outbreak that may be more serious in the future.

The consciousness substructure underlying the riots is national-religious in nature and only on the fringes do the socio-economic issues stand out. The national-religious consciousness is related to the perception of Israeli Arab identity and how the rioters understand its practical meaning: many Israeli Arabs see themselves as Palestinians and as part of the Palestinian people. As Palestinians, they fully adopt the Palestinian narrative. They deny the very existence of a Jewish people and its sovereign, historical connection to the Land of Israel. They believe that the Palestinians are the only indigenous people in this region. They expect that the Jews will eventually be forced to leave and return to the countries from which they came, while the Palestinians will fulfill their claim (“right of return”) to their homes from which they were temporarily displaced in the Nakba (disaster) of 1948.

Israeli Arabs have a unique role in the Palestinian struggle against Zionism. Central to the struggle is their steadfast (Summud) grip on the land, their influence on Israeli policy on the Palestinian issue, and the preservation of the ideal of the return of the refugees as a component of changing Israel’s identity from a Jewish state to a state of all its citizens.

Like other Palestinians, and perhaps even more so, due to their unique situation as Israeli citizens, they increasingly strive for a unique and assimilated culture within Israeli society. Most Israeli Arabs face tension between their commitment to the Palestinian narrative and their aspirations for prosperity and their recognition of the gap between the narrative and the reality. The Israeli Arab political spectrum reflects the difference between the commitment to the Palestinian narrative and aspirations for prosperity. This often involves their integration into Israeli society and recognition of the reality that Israel, the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, is an existing fact that has gained broad international support and enjoys impressive military and economic power. Israel’s political power led to a breakthrough in its relations with the Arab world in the form of the Abraham Accords.

Three prominent political movements consider the Palestinian narrative to be of supreme value.

The first – the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement – whose positions are very close to Hamas, emphasizes the religious facet. The second – the nationalist Balad Party – and the third – the Sons of the Village Movement – are affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Representatives of these movements played a central role in creating the cognitive infrastructure that led to the riots and the incitement during the events.

While the Israeli Arab parties Hadash and Ta’al express their commitment to the Palestinian narrative, they carefully incorporate their messages, especially in Hebrew, with a more cautious nuance, which recognizes the economic and civic needs of Israeli Arabs and their reality vis-a-vis Israel.

The Ra’am Party (the United Arab List) is also committed to the Palestinian narrative and the religious vision of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, some of its members, led by Mansour Abbas, believe that a realistic approach to changing Israel’s identity should be adopted, since their ultimate vision is not achievable in the immediate term. Therefore, it places a more significant emphasis on improving the quality of life of Israeli Arabs. The party sees this as a “civilian Jihad” that is also part of the struggle against Zionism.

Ra’am has a cautious approach that disapproves of a slide toward violence, but it refrains from confronting those who support it and, therefore, uses pragmatic language, especially in Hebrew. The movement’s speakers sent conflicting messages during Israel’s Gaza operation: some fanned the flames of passion but, facing manifestations of violence, most abstained from doing so. Mansour Abbas, the party leader, even visited a synagogue damaged in the riots in a gesture intended, he said, to prevent events from escalating toward civil war.

The cognitive infrastructure of Israeli Arabs, especially among the youth, is influenced not only by their leaders’ messages, but also by messages from the broader Palestinian leadership, headed by Fatah and Hamas. They call for increased commitment to the Palestinian narrative and the values of the struggle derived from it. Hamas, unlike Fatah, no longer disapproves of the possibility of integrating Israeli Arabs into engaging in violent acts, as could be seen during the Guardians of the Walls Operation, when the movement called on Israeli Arabs to act. The strengthening of Hamas within the Palestinian political structure – another manifestation of the May 2001 conflict – led to more significant identification with the movement’s messages among Israeli Arabs as well.

Other factors influencing and radicalizing Israeli Arab consciousness are the aggrieved messages transmitted on social networks (particularly on TikTok), the Arab media, headed by Al-Jazeera, as well as the international diplomatic community’s concern regarding the status of Israeli Arabs.

Another fundamental cognitive component derived from the commitment to the Palestinian narrative is the religious realm. It is reflected in the deep-rooted belief, on the Palestinian street, that Israel intends to harm the al-Aqsa Mosque and to “Judaize” Jerusalem.

To the national and religious components of the basic consciousness of Israeli Arabs, one must add the socio-national features. Feelings of deprivation stem from the fact that Arab society is a minority group that lacks equal national rights in the country of which it claims ownership. The socio-economic situation of most Arabs in Israel is lower, sometimes significantly, than that of Jewish citizens. While it is possible to ask to what extent these feelings of deprivation are justified, given the continued improvement in the quality of life of the Arab population in Israel and its increasing integration into general Israeli society, it is clear that feelings of deprivation are indeed part of the cognitive infrastructure. The intensity of these feelings is different among various groups and is most pronounced among the Bedouins.

In recent years, general awareness in Israel of the economic and social inequality of the Israeli Arab population has increased significantly, as well as the need to address it. As a result, the process of assimilation has accelerated in general society, and many resources have been allocated to close the gaps in infrastructure, education, employment, housing, and policing. These changes were effected by the previous government and, even more so, by the current government. However, the situation is still problematic, and feelings among the Arab public will not change so quickly.

Two other phenomena set the stage for the riots. One is the continued erosion of the state’s governance of Israeli Arabs. Certain sectors of the Israeli Arab public have become accustomed to the state not interfering in their affairs and ignoring their criminal behavior, especially in the Negev. This sense of Israeli Arab omnipotence and government impotence seems to have been a conscious component that contributed to the riots. It is unclear whether the handling of the May riots’ participants can make a difference in this consciousness.

The second phenomenon is the tension within Arab society in Israel in lieu of the Arab Ra’am Party’s decision to withdraw from the Arab Joint List Party, run independently in the Knesset elections, and then join the government coalition. This tension has increased among Ra’am’s opponents who believe in challenging Ra’am by protesting, including violence, as the correct way to deal with the problems of Arab society without compromise or acceptance of reality.

On the basis of this consciousness infrastructure, the riots flared up due to many elements that served as detonators and accelerants. The events in Jerusalem at the time, specifically on the Temple Mount and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, leading up to Hamas rocket attacks on the city, were highlighted by the media. The Palestinian leadership, and part of Israel’s Arab leadership, portrayed these events in a distorted and radical manner that, given the cognitive infrastructure, could be seen as inciting. The shooting of Hamas rockets toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the messages that accompanied the barrage, ignited the imaginations of passionate young people and led to their unprecedented rioting. To justify their violent activity, some complained about the arrival of groups of young Orthodox young families, perceived by some of the Arab population in the mixed cities as a provocation, another form of “settlement” seeking to “Judaize” their cities.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The May 2021 riots exposed the intensity of the hostility of some of the Arab population in Israel toward the prevailing order in the state and, in practice, showed their animosity toward Israel’s very existence as a Jewish and democratic state. The rioting exposed the tumultuous confluence of the violent hostility, the availability of weapons among Israeli Arabs, the relatively broad public support for the narrative behind this violence, and feelings of deprivation and lack of governance. These factors indicate the potential for further, perhaps even more serious, flare-ups, given a volatile event that will ignite the fumes again. Another signal of this dangerous potential were the violent riots by Bedouin in January 2022 in response to tree planting in the Negev.

The Israeli government and the security establishment have been forced to address the problem in two dimensions – the socio-economic and security spheres. Huge budgets have been allocated for infrastructure, education, housing, and policing in the Arab sector, while at the same time, preparations have been made to deal with such riots in the future. Israel’s security apparatus must now factor in the threat from the Israeli Arab sector. Changes are being made in the preparations and training of the Israel Security Agency, Israel Police, Border Police, and IDF to deal with future riots.

It is clear that the implementation of these lessons is essential to address this serious phenomenon, but it is not enough. It is necessary to deal with the ideological dimension as well, by narrowing the freedom of action of the parties engaged in establishing a consciousness that supports violence. Such action must manifest itself by giving more practical meaning to the decision to outlaw the radical Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement and prohibit the inciting activities of its former members.

In this context, it is important to recognize the relationship between the Ra’am Party and Hamas, as revealed in the investigation into ties between the Ra’am “48 Foundation” and Hamas elements in Gaza. These connections include the transfer of aid to those in need, according to lists prepared by the Hamas government in Gaza. A significant change of attitude is also required regarding exercising state governance in dealing with criminal elements among Israeli Arabs.

It is also imperative to address those groups working to delegitimize Israel with the libel of conducting apartheid practices against Israeli Arabs, thereby fanning the flames.


Cartoon
(Al Arabiya)

The Israeli Arab Rioters Still Mourn the “Nakba” and Yearn for the “Return”

Nadav Shragai

In May 2021, during the month of Ramadan, intense violence erupted in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, at the Damascus Gate, and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The events in Jerusalem served as a catalyst for Hamas to unleash volleys of rockets on Israel, and led to unprecedented Arab riots in mixed Israeli cities where Jews and Arabs have lived in relative coexistence for decades.

Starting on May 10, Arabs attacked Jews in Jewish neighborhoods in Lod, Acre, Jaffa, Ramla, and other localities. They looted and burned apartments in shared Jewish-Muslim buildings, murdered two Jewish civilians, and injured 196 Jewish civilians and 300 police officers. Ten synagogues were torched, many Israeli flags were set on fire and vandalized, and public property was burned. Two Israeli Arabs were killed at the time in incidents that are still being investigated. In Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), where the unrest also spread, 27 Palestinians were killed during riots and attacks.

For several days, residents of Jewish neighborhoods found themselves under siege, and curfews or restrictions on movement were imposed in Arab neighborhoods and towns. As the violence intensified, the Israel Security Agency issued an unusual statement classifying the violence as terrorism.

The research below suggests that, alongside the two catalysts of the rioting – the “defense of al-Aqsa” mosque and the friction surrounding the presence of Jewish families in the Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon the Righteous neighborhood – another key factor was behind the events. This is the preoccupation and discourse among Israeli Arabs regarding the “Nakba” (the “disaster of the establishment of the State of Israel”) and the hope of exercising the “right of return” to the places where Arabs lived before 1948.

Hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled from hundreds of places during Israel’s War of Independence. This was precipitated by the Arab countries’ rejection of the UN Partition Resolution and invasion to thwart the establishment of the State of Israel and annihilate its Jewish residents.

The preoccupation with the “Nakba” and the “Return” was not just a theoretical or heritage-consciousness issue, but a practical hope. It stood, among other reasons, behind the troubling events in May 2021, sometimes only as a “backdrop” and sometimes as the cause and as a catalyst.

This study cites dozens of statements and quotes from Muslim clerics, Arab youth who took part in the riots, and leaders of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement who incited and agitated the Arab residents in the mixed cities. Also reviewed are the actions of Israeli-Arab organizations which actively support the right of return.

For example, two weeks before the May riots, the Arab Al-Saraya Theater in Jaffa hosted the Zochrot organization’s performance of “Disturbances,” an event entitled, “We Thought It Was Temporary.” The show presented voices and pictures from the past and from those places where Arabs lived before 1948 and where they seek to return today. In the May 2021 demonstrations across Israel, participants chanted: “With blood and fire we will redeem Palestine…or Jaffa, or Acre.” The demonstrations were often accompanied by severe violence against police officers, Jews, and Jewish neighborhoods that were attacked by Arab rioters.

Rioting high school students from Lod made it clear that “the ‘occupation’ of 1967 does not interest them at all, only a return to their homes from before 1948.” Lod resident Aya Zeinati said that she “repeatedly explains to her children that they are not from Haifa,” but from a village “which was destroyed by the Zionists,” and that “they are going to go back there.” The imam of the Great Mosque in Lod, Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, who was arrested for incitement to riot, declared that Israel is not his country. The imam of El-Ramal Mosque in Acre, Sheikh Mahmoud Madi, referred to “our cities in internal Palestine” and estimated that the collapse of the Zionist entity was imminent. In Kafr Kanna, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, who was arrested for participating in the riots, said that “even if [the Jews] thought that the Palestinian elders had died and the young had forgotten, the elders died only after they had taught their sons that this was Palestine, and left them a key, a bill of sale, a deed, and the love of the homeland.”

Arab Members of the Knesset have also expressed these sentiments over the past few years. “Return” tours are held in many parts of the country by organizations that seek to exercise the right of return, and the “keys of return” carried by Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza are now displayed at such events, even by some Israeli Arabs.

At the core of the increased preoccupation of Israeli Arabs with the “Nakba” and the “Return” is the way many define themselves today, as “Palestinian Arabs living in Israel,” bearers of Palestinian identities, who share with the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza a common fate and destiny. It is also expressed in frequent public declarations of Arab Members of the Knesset and public figures and the insistence of many that they reside in “internal Palestine,” or “Palestine” but not Israel.

Alongside these “Palestinian” Israelis, there is also a large Arab public in Israel that sees itself as Israeli and feels a connection to the state. This expression of duality has also been reflected over the years in public opinion surveys conducted among the Arab population in Israel. For example, in a survey conducted a few years ago by the New Wave Institute, 73% of the Israeli Arab respondents said they feel that they belonged to the State of Israel and that most did not want to live under Palestinian rule. At the same time, however, 85% supported the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel and only 9% opposed it.

Among decision-makers and public opinion in Israel, there has been a consensus for many years that the exercise of the Palestinian “right of return” will bring about the end of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It is an axiom that the Palestinian “right of return” is in fact a denial of the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. It is believed that the real purpose of the call for the “right of return” is the destruction of the State of Israel.


Jerusalem
(Social Networks)

Were Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque the Driving Forces behind the Violence of May 2021?

Yoni Ben Menachem

In April and May 2021, a series of violent incidents began in several places in Jerusalem that lasted several weeks and culminated on May 10, 2021, when Hamas launched a surprise rocket attack during the Jerusalem Liberation Day “Flag March.” The rocket barrage was the opening signal for a new round of fighting by Hamas against Israel from Gaza.

The IDF responded with the 11-day military Operation Guardians of the Wall, during which time a paroxysm of violence and riots erupted in various parts of the country, including in the cities where Jews and Arabs live together: Jaffa, Ramla, Lod, Acre, Haifa, and more.

The violent events inside Israeli reminded many of the wave of violence by Israeli Arabs in October 2000.

The Common Denominator of Violence in 2000 and 2021

An analysis of the two eruptions shows that the events of October 2000 were more serious, as 13 Israeli civilians were killed, including 12 Arabs and one Jew.

The current mood in the Arab sector and in the mixed cities is that the violence of May 2021 could be repeated in the future even more forcefully because the underlying causes have not changed.

It is possible to clearly establish the common denominator of these two terrible waves of violence. The detonator that led to both waves of violence could be found in eastern Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount.

For Israeli Arabs, the outbreak of violence in May 2021 was a spontaneous outburst to protest the war in Gaza, their deprivation and inequality in Israeli society, and to emphasize their Palestinian national identity and separation from an Israeli identity, despite an Israelization phenomenon in Arab society. Israel’s Arabs also wanted to emphasize their inseparable connection to the Palestinian people and to the al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli security officials also attribute the violent Israeli Arab response to incitement choreographed by Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sitting in a Beirut command center.

New Friction Points in May 2021, Not Present in October 2000

Since the events of October 2000, there have been major changes on the ground and in the balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians that also affect Israeli Arabs: the Hamas movement has taken over Gaza, built up its combat capabilities, and became an important factor influencing regional stability. Hamas’ political power has also strengthened, and its ambitions to gradually take over all of “Palestine from the River to the Sea” have increased.

The rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2007 have not achieved a clear military decision, which increases the movement’s self-confidence and daring and erodes Israel’s deterrence capability.

On May 10, 2021, Hamas established a new formula for confrontation with Israel, the “Gaza-Jerusalem” equation, and under that banner it went to war against Israel for 11 days. Hamas presents itself today as the “protector of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque,” and has been acting to earn that title. Whenever problems arise in eastern Jerusalem or on the Temple Mount, Hamas sends warnings to Israel that it will not allow harm to the national interests of the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

New points of friction have arisen in Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs, such as the Damascus Gate Plaza, the village of Silwan, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Attention must be paid to what occurs in these places, otherwise they will explode and affect what is happening inside Israel.

A new factor on the scene is the intifada of the younger generation in eastern Jerusalem, who have begun to initiate violent events independently, without waiting for instructions by the PA or Hamas. The wave of violence among the youth is due mainly to socio-economic reasons, but it is also influenced by the religious incitement of the Hamas movement.

Increasing visits by Jews to the Temple Mount is another factor. The trend is on the rise and is a constant point of friction and tension between Jews and Arabs.

Hamas Sees Unrest in the Israeli Arab Sector as of Great Importance in Its Struggle

Hamas’ goals are to erase Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and to nullify the U.S. recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. To achieve those aims, it is inciting an intifada in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Arab sector in Israel.

Hamas sees the participation of Israeli Arabs in the struggle for Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque as a significant development. A senior Hamas figure declared, “We managed to break the coexistence between Jews and Arabs within the 1948 areas with our ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ operation.”

Hamas is active in agitating within the Arab sector in Israel in order to bring about a violent civilian insurgence that will weaken Israel from within. One of Hamas’ objectives is to tie down Israel’s security forces in an Israeli Arab intifada that will open in parallel with an intifada in the West Bank and rocket fire from Gaza. As far as Hamas is concerned, the riots of Israeli Arabs are an excellent lever to press the Israeli government on Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

The Cinders of the Riots Still Burn

The younger generation of Israeli Arabs still harbors feelings of discrimination, deprivation, and hatred, and concerns over a lack of government support to combat crime and in the social spheres. They feel great outrage at Israel’s ban on illegal construction, as well as its failure to deal with the proliferation of illegal weapons.

The conflict within Arab society also reflects the tensions between Palestinian national identity and Israeli identity and loyalty to the State of Israel.

Since the riots of May 2021, there has seemingly been quiet in the Arab sector, but the embers are red-hot beneath the surface and threaten to flare up again, especially in the mixed cities where there is greater daily friction between Jews and Arabs.

Is There Hope for the Future?

The hope of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel has not yet been lost, and positive processes have begun on the ground, but the road is still very long and perilous.

Positive signs: An Arab party joined the Israeli government coalition for a political partnership with Zionist-Jewish parties.

An economic plan has been approved to close the gaps with Arab society in the next five years (2022-2026) totaling NIS 30 billion, in which a series of measures will be promoted in housing, health services, employment, innovation, and high-tech.

A multi-year plan was approved to address the phenomena of crime and violence in Arab society for 2022-2026. The program will be budgeted at NIS 2.5 billion with the objectives of dismantling criminal organizations, reducing the effects of crime and violence in Arab society, reducing illegal weapons, increasing the sense of self-confidence of both Arab and Jewish citizens, increasing the Arab public’s confidence in the law enforcement system, and more.

A new Electricity Law has been approved. Many localities in Israel, most of them in Arab areas, have suffered for years from a lack of planning. As a result, residents in these communities are unable to receive building permits, which also means that they are unable to connect to the electricity, water, or telephone networks. Knesset passage of the new law will bring electricity hook-ups to tens of thousands of homes built without building permits and not connected to proper infrastructure that allows for a minimal standard of living.

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • In eastern Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, chronic friction points must be neutralized or dismantled in a proper fashion. These are places that are under Israeli sovereignty and under the full control of its security agencies.
  • In places such as Sheikh Jarrah, the village of Silwan, the Damascus Gate Plaza in the Old City, and during daily events such as Jewish visits on the Temple Mount, there must be an increased presence of the Israel Police to prevent friction between Jews and Arabs. Their presence is especially critical during commemorations and Jewish and Muslim holidays, with an emphasis on the month of Ramadan and the holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
  • The Israel Police should establish a special, permanent force to deal with these places, made up of people well-acquainted with the territory and its sensitivities to Jews and Muslims.
  • It is necessary to ensure the full implementation of the new government programs for the Arab sector and to encourage dialogue and discourse between the Jewish and Arab sectors at all levels.
  • Increased police presence in the Arab sector and in the mixed cities is essential. The establishment of a special intervention force of the police and border police is necessary to deal with widespread riots.
  • Judicial punishment for “hate crimes” by both sides must be enforced and increased.

A Bedouin man walks through the village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev desert, Israel.
(AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The Events of 2021 Requires Israel to Wake Up – and the Sooner the Better

Pinhas Inbari

Israel must regain control of the Arab areas within its borders, especially the Bedouin locales. Anyone who acts violently must be arrested and criminal proceedings opened against him. There is no alternative to returning Israeli governance over all areas of the state. If, for instance, the illegal Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem reject the agreements with the State of Israel because of Hamas or Fatah pressures, the courts’ decision to evict them must be carried out.

One must study well the reasons for the violent events in Israeli Arab society. There are several:

  • The feeling of being on the fringe, including the Bedouin periphery, and that they are marginalized from the cornucopia of plenty. They rose up to burn down the clubhouse.
  • The strengthening of Islam in the periphery, including the Bedouin periphery.
  • The burgeoning of crime within Bedouin society.
  • There is great sensitivity to what is being done on the Temple Mount and the fear that the “settlers” will “storm” and take over the al-Aqsa Plaza. A radicalization has emerged in the Arab/Palestinian narrative that all Jews are “settlers” or religious Jews. The belief of a tie between the Jewish “price tag” activity in the West Bank and the actions of the “settlers” in the mixed neighborhoods within pre-1967 Israel will have dangerous consequences and must be de-linked.
  • The Nakba (“1948 disaster”) narrative, central to the rhetoric of the PLO in Ramallah, is heard less among Palestinians in the West Bank, and even less among the “average person” in Israeli Arab society. It is heard among public Arab figures, but less in the general public. Former Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, who used to demonstrate for the “right of return,” is gone from the public scene, and at the same time, Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and promoter of the “Al-Aqsa is in danger” libel, is sitting in jail and hardly anyone cares. We have not seen the rioters waving Nakba signs, calling for the right of return, or waving the iconic key to lost properties. The Nakba narrative was not seen or heard during the May 2021 riots.

Much more than the Nakba claims, though, the “Al-Aqsa is in danger” narrative played a central role and was used by Hamas to show that it was defending al-Aqsa. One reliable report said that Gazan Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar told Egyptians that he protects al-Aqsa and will not hesitate to open another round of fighting if al-Aqsa is endangered.

However, the situation in Jerusalem should not be connected to the events around Israel; Jerusalem has its own problems. The tension around the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem originated with demonstrators from elsewhere in Israel. Also, the tensions around Damascus Gate and the Temple Mount are largely because of young members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement from the Arab “Triangle” region of Israel who came to Jerusalem to riot. The level of violent demonstrations in Jerusalem was higher than in the past, but it was lower than those elsewhere in Israel. However, if and when the Arabs of eastern Jerusalem really begin an intifada, it will create a very serious risk to the unity of Jerusalem. We are not at this point yet, but we must be aware of this danger right now.

I believe Jordan will not agree to Hamas taking on its title as “Guardian of Jerusalem,” and Hamas may escalate its opposition to Israel by objecting to its presence at the Western Wall, with all the potential for a deterioration regarding Jerusalem and beyond.

There is an immediate necessity to stop the deterioration of the al-Aqsa debate and restore the relationship with Jordan and the Waqf. This issue is not like Sheikh Jarrah, which is a legal matter, but a matter of agreements with Jordan and the Waqf that also served Israel for many years and were a factor in the stabilization of Jerusalem. If the situation in Jerusalem deteriorates because of the Temple Mount, it will be difficult for Israel to maintain the Abraham Accords for long.

Regarding the Bedouin issue, just as Israel failed to exercise governance on the Temple Mount when it was tasked with arresting Raed Salah but now asserts governance in the matter of prayer, Israel is now acting to enforce its governance in the face of rising crime in Bedouin society. The absence of governance emboldened the Bedouin to play by tribal rules and to disconnect from Israel. The new “wild South” in the Negev threatens law-abiding Jews and Bedouins.

Recommendations

Consider the establishment of a National Guard to deal with the problem of crime in Israel and the lack of governance within Israel. The police alone cannot address the problem with its current capabilities.

Consider transferring the question of Jerusalem to the responsibility of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s office. This is too big a problem for the Jerusalem Police, the Jerusalem Municipality, and the Ministry of Public Security. It requires care at the level of the prime minister.


Election poster
(Social Networks)

Israel’s Islamic Party (Ra’am): Pragmatism and Islamism According to Mansour Abbas

Lt.-Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi

In video clips as well as in a series of publications, Mansour Abbas explains how he relates to the State of Israel and what is the most effective strategy for achieving the long-term goals of the Islamic Movement. He describes the Israelis as “invaders” to a land that was not theirs and Israel as the “Zionist enemy.” Abbas derives his inspiration for his positions from the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

The best path for us [Ra’am] at this stage is the influential political partnership, which crosses the boundaries, and lets us into the strongholds that were built by the instruments of the Israeli state to oppose us.

Mansour Abbas, June 26, 2021, interview in al-Quds al-Arabi (UK)

The United Arab List Party (Ra’am) achieved a historic breakthrough in Israeli politics when it became the first Arab party to join the government coalition with Zionist parties, headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Arab Movement for Renewal Party and formerly Israeli affairs adviser to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, called the government that Ra’am joined “the first Israeli-Palestinian government.”

The political forging of this Jewish-Arab partnership in government, which is unprecedented in Israeli history, was led by Member of Knesset Dr. Mansour Abbas, a dentist by profession and a Muslim scholar who has been the leader of Ra’am since 2019.

The political line Mansour Abbas adopted has been interpreted by Israeli political commentators as indicating a profound change in the position of the Muslim leadership in Israel regarding the state, including implicit recognition of its Jewish character and sincere willingness to positively integrate into the society and its institutions.

The charter of the Ra’am Party, which was formulated in 2018 and reaffirmed a year later at the party’s conference in Nazareth headed by Mansour Abbas, takes a fundamentally hostile stance toward the Zionist movement and the State of Israel and views the implementation of the “right of return” as the basis for achieving “peace.” The following is a translation of passages from the Ra’am charter (first published by Aaron Boxerman in the Times of Israel):

  • “The State of Israel was born of the racist, occupying Zionist project; iniquitous Western and British imperialism; and the debasement and feebleness of the Arab and Islamic [nations]. We do not absolve ourselves, the Palestinian people, of our responsibility and our failure to confront this project.”
  • “[Israel,] Remove your hands from the Palestinian people so they might establish their own free and independent state, next to Israel, and that the expelled and displaced might return to their homeland and their houses and their land. Or, accept one state from the river to the sea, in which the two peoples may live under the heavens in freedom and equality and safety and peace.”
  • “We all are [united as] one hand until the occupation ends and a Palestinian state is established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and in noble Jerusalem; when the expelled and displaced return to their homes and to their homeland.”
  • “You [Israel] have a warning in the Frank apostates [the Crusaders] who forcefully ravished the land for nearly two centuries, until they were defeated by Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi and his soldiers.”
  • “Our political participation, on all its levels, from local government to the legislative authority in parliament [i.e., the Knesset], and in official civil authorities, is but an attempt to defend our rights and the interests of our Arab Palestinian community inside [Israel], and to aid our Palestinian cause, and to clash with the proposals and policies and programs of the Zionist project from within the heart of the state institutions….It is, at the very least, a word of truth before a tyrannical despot.”
  • “Our most important goal with regard to the State of Israel, regarding Palestinian Arab society, is to maintain our presence in our homeland, to preserve our identity, and the Arab, Islamic, and Christian identities of our country, and to enable our community to achieve its rights in civil, national and religious spheres, and in the sphere of daily life.”

An analysis of Mansour Abbas’ statements in Arabic presents a more complex picture. Abbas, who is, as noted, a Muslim scholar, bases the legitimacy of the political strategy that he delineates and implements on Islamic foundations, and he draws inspiration for it from the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad.

According to Abbas, Muhammad guided the believers to adhere to an element of moderation that does not immediately resort to the use of force and to adopt a multi-stage strategy that provides supreme priority to strengthening the Muslim community. Furthermore, the Prophet, by his actions, forged (temporary) alliances with non-Muslim communities, and was prepared – at times when the Muslim community was weak – to conclude (tactical) agreements with the infidels while expecting to overcome and subjugate them in the future.

The Role of the Hegira Story in Abbas’ Doctrine

In an article titled “The Path of the Hegira from Mecca and the Path of the Return to Palestine” (October 15, 2015), Mansour Abbas wrote:

Is it possible to utilize this supreme anniversary [of Muhammad’s Hegira from Mecca to Medina], with its meanings and symbols, to shift the Palestinians from a state of occupation, weakness, uprooting, and aggression to a new path in which we will sweep the occupation away, or impose a siege on it, and carry out a return to the motherland of Palestine and raise the flag of freedom and honor?

The story of the Hegira, the Prophet Muhammad’s flight to the city of Medina, along with his establishment of the Islamic state in that city and forging of the Hudaybiyyah treaty [with the Quraish tribe], plays a central role in Abbas’ thought as a model for the Islamic Movement to emulate in its struggle with the Zionist movement, which established the State of Israel and rules it today.

According to Abbas, political activity must be based on Islam and not solely on literal meanings, as is the tendency of the radical organizations. Abbas seeks to act based on the intentions of the Islamic teachings, taking into account the existing situation and the relevant question of the cost or benefit entailed by each measure to be taken. This does not involve an iota of deviation from religious belief or from the basic, unalterable tenets, but it requires conceptional and political flexibility, which can pave the most rapid and efficient way to achieving the goals that Islam sets. Abbas explains that this is the conceptual mindset that led him to join the coalition headed by Bennett and Lapid.

Abbas’ order of priorities focuses first of all on strengthening the Arab community socially, culturally, economically, and politically by taking part in decision-making on the governmental level, while making the most of Ra’am’s pivotal role in a fragile coalition, attaining a large chunk of the budget that is aimed at developing the Arab sector, and scoring achievements in the struggle over the ownership of land, national identity, and the status of the Arabic language.

Ra’am is the political front for the Islamic Movement in Israel, whose founder is portrayed as “loyal to the path” of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Hassan al-Banna, and a “twin brother” of the founder of the Hamas movement, Ahmad Yassin. Abbas also attests that his worldview has been influenced by Islamic circles and scholars who have tried to bridge between Islam and the modern world, and that he has learned and derived lessons from the attempts of the Islamic movements (branches of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood) to become part of the political game in several Middle Eastern countries.

The Islamic Movement operates a network of non-profit organizations in the fields of religion, culture, society, and charity. These seek to disseminate an Islamic message to society; to convince the public to take part actively in mosques, including the al-Aqsa Mosque, and in Islamic endeavors; to organize social activity and religious preaching by devotees and students of the movement; and to provide socioeconomic aid to the Arab residents of Jerusalem and within Israel. In addition, the movement operates outside of Israel to direct humanitarian aid to Gaza, the West Bank, and other Arab countries, including Syria and Lebanon.

This pattern of activity is reminiscent of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin’s founding in Gaza, in 1973, of the al-Mujama al-Islami movement as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. This movement, too, officially adopted a policy of religious and social activism. At the time, the Israeli military administration dismissed the warning by the Religious Affairs Ministry not to grant this movement legal recognition for fear that it would engage in subversive activity under a religious guise. During the 1980s, Sheikh Yassin founded the Hamas movement and its military wing, with the help of the network of religious institutions he had built.

Abdullah Nimar Darwish, the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was called the “twin brother” of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of the Hamas movement, under whose guidance Darwish established the first foundations of the Islamic movement in Rahat. Senior members of the Islamic Movement called Sheikh Yassin a “giant leader” and called Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, the spiritual father of Osama bin Laden and one of the founders of al-Qaeda (assassinated in 1989), “one of the movement’s great leaders.”

Ra’am’s Main Policy Doctrines according to Mansour Abbas

Ra’am has in no way renounced and will never renounce any of the basic, unalterable doctrines of the religious, national, or social precepts.

The Arab Caliphate

In a Facebook post titled “Preface to Understanding the ‘Islamic Caliphate State’ Project,” Abbas wrote (August 7, 2015):

The Islamic movements that have a political character view the establishment of the ‘State of the Islamic Caliphate’ as the pinnacle of their political project….The practical, not theoretical, call for the [re]establishment of the caliphate began primarily in the Muslim Brotherhood movement….Does the study of the Islamic Caliphate have any connection to what we are undergoing in the Palestinian sphere? And does it help us in any way? My answer is yes, and some of the issues need to be clarified and translated into the terms of our reality with wisdom, responsibility, and vision. The source of our authority on this subject is the state of the Prophet [Muhammad] in Medina, and the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali, which is truly led along the straight path.

Ra’am’s Phased Plan

“We are at the beginning of the second phase, which is the phase of implementing the Arab policy in the Israeli political arena,” said Abbas, noting that this is a way of influencing the political elites.

Regarding the implications of his joining the government, Abbas said in June 2021, “The general understandings are wider than the coalition agreement, and we are advancing step-by-step since this is a political agreement. It is expected that there will be matters we will be able to advance with this government beyond what is in the [coalition] agreement….Not everything is written in the coalition agreement.”

According to Abbas, Ra’am’s phased plan is aimed at implementing its program within the Israeli political arena and thereby realizing the interests of the Arab public and causing the beginning of a change in the government’s policy. The gaining of political power will lead in the next phase to greater involvement and effective influence on the Palestinian issue as well.

The Question of Recognizing Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People

In a conversation with Muhammad Majadla, Channel 12 commentator and director of the Nas news channel, at the Israel Business Conference (December 21, 2021), Mansour Abbas was asked: “Israel is a state without a constitution and without borders, but it is a Jewish state. Can you accept that as an Arab?” To this, Abbas replied: “The State of Israel was born as a Jewish state. That is the decision of the Jewish people to establish a Jewish state. The question today is not what is the identity of the state. It was born thus; it will remain thus. The question is, what is the status of the Arab citizen and the Arab society in the Jewish state of Israel.”

Abd al-Malik Dehamshe, a senior figure in the Islamic Movement and former chairman of Ra’am, explained that Abbas’ words do not indicate a change in the stance of the Islamic Movement and the Ra’am Party. Dehamshe said:

They say Dr. Mansour [Abbas] has recognized the Jewishness of the country….Well, the State of Israel was not legitimate or recognized, not by the world, not by the Palestinians, not by the Arab and Islamic nation, except when its recognition by Dr. Mansour [Abbas] came along. What did Mansour Abbas say? That they [the Jews] have established this state for themselves, and they want it to remain.

A Demand to Achieve Palestinian “Justice”

In the demonstration [against the Nation-State Law], we will say that the soil of Palestine is the national homeland of the Palestinian people, and that the right of self-determination is a fundamental right of this people, and the right of return is not to be renounced, and that al-Quds is the capital of the state of Palestine, and that our Arabic language is the language of the person, the time, and the place in Palestine, and that we derive our civil rights from being the holders of the right and the residents of the land. That is the meaning of our presence here today. (August 9, 2018)

Ra’am supports the two-state solution based on an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967, and the return of millions of refugees and their descendants under the “right of return” – a demand that, if implemented, entails a massive transfer of the Jewish population and the destruction of the State of Israel.

“The Jews Are Invaders”

Mansour Abbas once called Israel an “enemy” of the entire Palestinian people, including the Israeli Arabs, because, in his view, it has occupied Palestinian land, and he labelled it “the Zionist enemy.” On October 22, 2016, Abbas, as representative of the Supreme Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arabs, took part in a rally in Ramallah under the heading “Nationalists Who Call to Put an End to Division.” In his speech to the rally, he said:

Listen well to us: You [the Jews] have no right to the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque, you [the Jews] have no right to the al-Buraq plaza [the Western Wall plaza], and you have no right to the city of al-Quds [Jerusalem]. You [the Jews] are invaders in this land. Those are the facts.

Israel – “The Zionist Enemy”

Brothers, sisters, it is not enough to say that our essential conflict [with Israel] obligates us to put an end to division, our essential conflict [is] with our Zionist enemy. No. We are a Palestinian people that is entitled to a future, that is entitled to unity, that is entitled to a Palestinian state.

Denying the Historical Rights of the Jewish People in Jerusalem

The ancient history books and the archaeological experts, including the Israeli ones, have not provided any scientific evidence of the existence of the Temple of Solomon in this place or another place. In the first weeks of the Israeli occupation, [they] excavated the floor of the mosque under the carpet, and if they had found something, they would have publicized it. They say the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and after six hundred years, the Muslims came to it and built their al-Aqsa Mosque on it. Imagine six hundred years of obliviousness, no one prays at it, no one renovates its ruins, no one cleans it, and today they want it as their Temple. What kind of justice, what kind of humanity, and what kind of religion is this? (2016)

Based on his belief in Islam, Mansour Abbas appropriates the Temple Mount and the Western Wall for Islam, views them as religious sites (the al-Aqsa Mosque and the al-Buraq plaza) that belong exclusively to the Muslims, and completely denies the significance of the Jews’ religious bond with Jerusalem.

The Attitude toward Hamas

We learned from the martyrs, the martyr President Yasser Arafat [founder of the Fatah movement, the PLO, and the Palestinian Authority] and the martyr Sheikh Ahmad Yassin [founder and former leader of Hamas] that Palestinian unity is sacred and essential to our sacred, religious, and national endeavors. We must not desecrate this holy thing with such division.

Abbas sees Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is designated as a terror organization by Israel and many other countries, including the United States, the European Union, and Canada, as a legitimate political actor that is fit to be part of the Palestinian people’s leadership and representative institutions. He has worked vigorously to promote a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, the declared aim of which is to complete the process of building the Palestinian state and to chart a plan of action and a united national struggle against Israel.

Encouraging Hamas to continue on its path: In a public message, Mansour Abbas advised Hamas to adhere to the platform it has adopted, to make it a national Palestinian plan of action, and to continue the struggle with all the means at its disposal as a national asset. The Hamas platform denies the self-determination of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel, characterizes Zionism as an enemy of humanity, and justifies the struggle in its current forms, meaning the armed struggle.

Aid for Palestinian Security Prisoners and for the Al-Aqsa Intifada

Mansour Abbas completely supports the Palestinian security prisoners and detainees, many of whom are serving long prison terms for carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including the dispatch of suicide bombers. He sent greetings to all of these prisoners, whom he called “brave.” Abbas also expressed joy at the release of security prisoner Lena Jarboni, who assisted Islamic Jihad operatives in attempted terrorist attacks. He further noted that Jarboni came out of prison “unbroken and defiant,” proving that the “occupier” could be defeated despite the prolongation of “injustice and aggression.”

Moreover, Mansour Abbas has also expressed unreserved support for Sheikh Raed Salah, who has been sentenced several times to prison for rioting, incitement and supporting terrorism. On December 28, 2015, Abbas wrote in a Facebook post that Russia’s intervention in Syria “allowed our enemies to assassinate one of the top symbols of the struggle/resistance, Samir Kuntar.” Kuntar was a Lebanese Druze terrorist who took part in a terrorist attack in Nahariya in 1979 and was killed in 2015 while engaging in terrorism on behalf of Hizbullah, which blamed Israel for the assassination.

Every year, the Islamic Movement commemorates the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, during which more than a thousand Israelis were murdered in thousands of terrorist attacks. These included dozens of suicide bombings and shootings. On October 1, 2016, Mansour Abbas shared the Islamic Movement’s message which praised the miraculous al-Aqsa Intifada, saying that it “put the national compass back in correct alignment” and exalted the sacrifice of martyrs, prisoners and those wounded.

The May 2021 Uprising Was a “Religious War” that in the Future Could Lead to the Deportation of All Jews from Palestine

Sheikh Raed Badir, director of the Institute of Halacha and Islamic Studies of the Islamic Movement, to which the Ra’am Party is subject, presented a proposal to resolve the Jewish- Muslim conflict in Israel on a religious basis, based on precedents in Islamic history, including the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. According to Badir, this is the only direction to be taken as there is no time for a temporary peace, at the end of which, the next generation would then decide to extend it or commence war.

Badir’s article entitled “The Religious Solution to Prevent a Great Religious War between Muslims and Israel by a Long-Term Ceasefire [Hudna] under the Conditions of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi” may help us understand the views of Mansour Abbas, who also relies on Islamic principles and precedents including the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

Badir’s proposal was also accompanied by important religious insights and a strong warning to Israeli Jews regarding their fate in the Land of Israel. Badir stated that the Israeli Arab uprising in May 2021 was a Muslim “religious war” against the Jews, and it was only a tiny illustration of the great religious war (Muslims against Jews) that would ensue if the Jews did not accept the religious settlement. It is in this war that the Muslims will expel all the Jews from the land and with a very high price in blood.

The LGBTQ+ Community – “Enemies of the Human Race”

Mansour Abbas adheres to the position of the Islamic Movement regarding the LGBTQ+ community which directly conflicts with that of the government coalition parties. The leaders of the Islamic movement refer to the LGBTQ+ as “perverts” and “enemies of the human race” who are doomed by Allah to be destroyed in the manner of Lot and the fires of hell. The struggle for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community is presented as an attack purposely designed to destroy conservative Arab society.

On February 2, 2022, MK Ibtisam Mara’ana (Labor Party) announced the establishment of the first LGBTQ+ shelter in Arab society. Mara’ana tweeted: “We are making history and today it begins. A residential and emergency shelter will be established in Israel for minors, young men and women from the Arab LGBTQ+ community who were forced to leave their homes. This is my flagship project with and for the gay Arab community. Today we made significant progress when we received the blessing and support of Minister Meir Cohen.”

Member of Knesset Walid Taha from Ra’am responded to her on February 3, 2022:

O people, we have created you male and female, and have divided you into peoples and tribes for a species you will distinguish between you. [Qur’an, Parsha 49, verse 13, translated by Uri Rubin] The words of the mighty Allah are true. Ibtisam Mara’ana, you do not have to dream, you are awake! There will never be any center that encourages or provides shelter for a man or woman who marries members of the same sex in the Arab sector! Finished. Oh Ibtisam, the people in our Arab society maintain their value system and do not accept that a man marries a man and a woman with a woman! The claim that some member of the coalition did not oppose the proposal is a blatant lie, as no one made such a proposal in the first place, and it is possible that Mara’ana started talking about it in secrecy and behind closed doors. This refuge and any refuge for this group [the LGBTQ+ community] will not arise and will not be! I wish that Ibtisam, assuming she is an Arab, and her party, would take care of the burning problems of Arab society, especially [in light of the fact] that it [the Labor Party] was the cause of these difficulties during decades of rule in the country.

Summary

In the first months of the Israeli governing coalition’s existence, the political phased plan of the Islamic Movement and Ra’am under Mansour Abbas’ leadership has scored major gains for the Arab sector in the sphere of construction and development, in securing a larger budget for Arab local authorities, and in thwarting government plans that are perceived as infringing on the rights of the Arab residents.

The great power held by Abbas, with Ra’am as a pivotal factor in the coalition, enables his party to promote its national and Islamic platform, to strengthen the affinity and loyalty of local political actors to Ra’am, and through the network of social and religious organizations that the Islamic Movement operates to cultivate a new generation that leans more toward Islam, along with a gradual Islamization of Arab society.

The positions that Abbas has openly expressed indicate that his pragmatism is solely a tactical means of rapidly and effectively promoting his strategic objectives, namely, building a more united Arab society under the flag of nationalism and Islam in order to pursue goals in the political arena. These include supporting the Palestinian organizations against Israel both politically and in the conflict itself, demanding a full Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 lines, and fulfilling the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” of millions of Palestinians and their descendants who are defined as “refugees,” which in practice means the destruction of the State of Israel.