New Government Would Need the Support of an Arab Party

The opposition coalition could form the first government in decades to rely on an Arab party’s votes, and Raam wants policy changes in return.

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The Arab party Raam is playing a crucial role in talks.

June 2, 2021, 12:31 p.m. ET

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Mansour Abbas, center, the leader of the Arab party Raam, at a campaign event in February. The new government would rely on Raam’s support to pass a confidence vote and to be able to control the Parliament.Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

One of the most unlikely kingmakers involved in the race to announce a new government is Mansour Abbas, the leader of the small Arab party known by its Hebrew acronym, Raam, with four seats in the current Parliament.

Under an 11th-hour agreement, Raam would formally be a part of a Lapid-Bennett coalition government, though it would not hold any Cabinet seats. That was something of a surprise, as the party was expected to remain outside the coalition, while supporting it in a confidence vote in the Parliament. Some Arab lawmakers played a similar role by supporting Yitzhak Rabin’s government from the outside in the 1990s.

For decades, Arab parties have not been directly involved in Israeli governments. They have been mostly shunned by other parties, and are leery of joining a government that oversees occupation of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s military actions.

But after decades of political marginalization, many Palestinian citizens, who make up a fifth of Israel’s population, have been seeking fuller integration.

Raam has been willing to work with both the pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps since the March election and to use its leverage to wrest concessions for the Arab public. The party has refused to commit to a deal unless it gets assurances for greater resources and rights for Israel’s Arab minority, including reforms to housing legislation that potential hard-right coalition partners do not accept.

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