Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, whose support provided the key backing needed for the incoming change government’s majority, vowed to reclaim land in Israel that was “expropriated” from Arab Israelis.
“We will reclaim the lands that were expropriated from our people, this is a national cause of the first degree,” Abbas said in Arabic in his speech before the Knesset plenum Sunday evening.
Switching to Hebrew for the end his speech, Abbas noted that “we come from different nations, different religions, and different sectors. There is one thing that connects all citizens of Israel and that is citizenship.”
Abbas rejected claims from the right that the incoming government “sold the south of Israel” to his party.
“Nobody sold the south to Ra’am, it remains in the State of Israel,” Abbas said. “The citizens of the south are citizens of the State of Israel. There is a disagreement about the ownership of the lands — this happens in all modern countries that deal with situations like this.”
The coalition deal signed between Ra’am and Yesh Atid includes the formal recognition of three Bedouin communities in the South, as well as extending the freeze of the Kaminitz Law — which cracks down on on illegal construction — until the end of 2024.
Abbas also emphasized that his party would seek to handle violent crime among Arab Israelis.
“Violence and organized crime pose grave danger to our lives, and the highest value we believe in is the value of human life. How can we claim to be patriots even as we fail to protect our nation’s children?” Abbas said.
“Our patience is long. We shall proceed onward in this path,” Abbas said.
Abbas said his party will work “to advance a dialogue that will bring about better, new, principled relations for all citizens of the state: Jews and Arabs.” The Ra’am leader said joining the new coalition “will also bridge the gaps on the national level and the religious level, and will bring us together to a dialogue that will help us understand each other and not view each other as enemies.”
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, whose party did not support the incoming government, called the new coalition “a bad government.”
“Today, a lot of people in the country are happy, and it’s easy to understand why,” he said. “There is room for joy, but there is no room for complacency.”
Odeh lamented that the interior, justice, and finance ministries are held by representatives of “the extreme right” — Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked, New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar, and Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman, respectively.
“We are looking for a different type of cooperation between Jews and Arabs, based on peace, equality, democracy, and social justice that is not in this government,” Odeh said.
Before he was sworn in as health minister in the new government, Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said during his speech that Ra’am’s participation “is the answer to all the racism and those who carried out violence who want to mark all Arabs in this country as the enemy.” The move “is good news to those who believe in Arab-Jewish cooperation also in the hallways of the Knesset and the government.”
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi warned that the new government will be even more right-wing than the coalition it is replacing.
“Something good is happening today,” namely Benjamin Netanyahu’s removal from power, following years of his “division and hatred” directed at Arab Israelis, said Tibi.
“But the alternative is right-wing, even more right-wing. I heard the prime minister-designate, and he spoke about strengthening the settlements. He spoke about regulation and sovereignty in the south,” Tibi said, adding that Arab Israelis know those words are euphemisms for plans that will harm the Bedouin communities in southern Israel.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, formerly Netanyahu’s coalition partner, thanked him for his contributions to Israel despite the bad blood between them.
“We’ll take it from here,” said Gantz during his speech.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett’s speech to the Knesset floor ahead of the vote that propelled him into office was repeatedly disrupted by shouting, heckling, and Knesset members being ejected from the plenum for their behavior.
At the very outset of his speech, Bennett was interrupted by Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, who held up images of victims of terror, shouting, “You should be ashamed of yourself!” along with other members of his faction.
Smotrich and several other Religious Zionism MKs were removed from the Knesset floor for breaking the rule against waving banners or signs in the plenum. The hecklers shouted “liar,” “crook” and “vote stealer,” as Bennett spoke.
Outgoing Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, of Likud, repeatedly and consistently warned the offending lawmakers that they would be removed from the floor for their disruptions. A series of Likud and Shas MKs was also evicted from the Knesset floor for their ongoing heckling of Bennett.
As the interruptions continued, Bennett’s children, who were sitting in the Knesset gallery, formed heart shapes with their hands to send a message of support for their father.
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