Israel’s Arab party leader vows to ‘bridge gaps’


Mansour Abbas, leader of the Ra’am party in Israel, has vowed on to advance the interests of the country’s Arab citizens from within the new coalition government.

Addressing the Knesset ahead of the swearing-in of the new government on Sunday, Abbas, leader of the Ra’am party, said his faction will work to achieve civil rights and “unprecedented achievements” for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, reports Xinhua news agency.

He said the party will struggle to return lands that have been confiscated by Israel to their original owners, residents of Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert.

Unrecognised by the state of Israel, these villages do not appear on any official map and Israel does not provide them any services such as electricity or water.

“I hope that the civil partnership will bridge gaps in the national and religious levels so that we could benefit and not stand as enemies,” Abbas said.

Ra’am, which won four seats in the 120-seat Knesset, is the first Arab party to sit in a governing coalition in Israel.

Israeli Arabs comprise about 20 per cent of the population in Israel.

They are Palestinians who stayed put during Israel’s “War of Independence” in 1948 which led to the statehood of Israel.

On Sunday, the era of Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to an end after former Defence Minister and leader of the right-wing Yamina (United Right) party, Naftali Bennett, was sworn in as the new premier.

This came after the new coalition government, headed by Bennett and Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid (Future) party, was approved by the Knesset in a vote of confidence, during which 60 lawmakers of the 120-member chamber voted in favour while 59 voted against it.

Thousands of Israelis gathered on Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv on Sunday night to celebrate the end of Netanyahu’s rule.

The forming of the new coalition government has ended a political crisis in Israeli, that has seen four elections in two years.