One of the most unlikely kingmakers involved in the formation of 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 deal, Raam formally agreed to join 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.
Israel’s early, leftist governments included Arab parties that were closely affiliated with the mostly Jewish parties. Raam would be the first independent Arab party in government, and the first Arab party of any kind in a right-leaning government.
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.