Israel’s Game-Changing Arab Politician Speaks

Mansour Abbas, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, last year made the United Arab List (UAL or Ra’am) the first Arab party to join an Israeli governing coalition—breaking with the other Arab parties and ending a boycott as old as the Jewish state itself. Last week, he was interviewed by Robert Satloff and David Makovsky under the auspices of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel, centrist think tank. While Abbas no doubt calibrated his words to his audience, his statements, delivered in Hebrew, carry great import. (A complete video of the interview can be found at the link below.)

If we look at Arab politics inside the state of Israel, we have seen ourselves always as an opposition party. It doesn’t matter who is in government, left or right, we have always seen ourselves in opposition. We have always said we want to see a partnership first and then we will see how to continue. We want to see the change and then we will see how we can help.

Now Ra’am, my party, says the exact opposite. . . . We say that [Arabs] cannot expect a change if [Arabs and Jews] are always opposed to each other and if we don’t talk to each other in a serious way. Now UAL says that despite these disputes, we first of all want to create a partnership and to address the points of contention within this partnership.

I have done politics my entire life, but for many years I didn’t want to join the coalition. So we don’t have the experience of what it means to be a member of a coalition or even of the government. Being in a coalition requires discipline. You have to support decisions that you don’t like, while trying to obtain certain concessions. Arab society is not used to this.

Jews and Arabs can live together when this state incorporates the Arab minority without sacrificing our identity or forgoing the initial rights of Jews.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Knesset, Mansour Abbas

 

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy