The United Arab List (Ra’am) has emerged as a surprise kingmaker following last week’s general elections in Israel.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, its leader Mansour Abbas said his party is open to negotiations with left-wing and right-wing parties on the formation of the new Israeli government.
“Our options are open and we are negotiating with the right and the left,” Abbas said.
According to the final results of the March 23 elections, the United Arab List won four seats in the 120-member Knesset (Israel’s parliament).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s camp, comprising Likud and allied right-wing parties, fell short of winning the 61 seats in the Knesset required to form a government, gaining only 52.
Abbas said he is ready to support a candidate for premiership “in return for "improving conditions of the Arab citizens and ending injustice, marginalization and exclusion against them”.
Abbas was a leader in the Islamic Movement in Israel which split into two blocs in 1996 as a result of a decision by its leader Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish to participate in the Israeli polls.
The northern branch of the Islamic Movement, led by prominent leader Raed Salah, refuses any participation in the Israeli elections.
Unlike other Arab parties in Israel, Abbas says he is ready to negotiate with major Israeli parties in return for solving problems facing the Arab community.
"Our red lines are our rights whether national or civilian rights,” Abbas said. “We don't negotiate or compromise on these rights. We may not be able to achieve them all, but we will not abandon them.”
Opinion polls predicted that the United Arab List will not secure the needed threshold to enter the Knesset.
However, Abbas said we were "not surprised by the results as we entered the polls based on a deliberate move”.
Abbas says he is undecided yet on which party to support regarding the government formation in Israel.
“We stand at the same distance from the two camps, and we are the third camp,” he said.
Abbas also confirmed that his party "will not allow a repetition of marginalization of the Arab community”.
He set the end to violence and crimes against the Arab community and Arab home demolitions as part of his demands in return for his support on the government formation.
“There is also the issue of our people in Negev as there are around 100,000 of them living there in undeveloped and unrecognized areas,” he said.
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Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara