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Not just funds: With return to coalition, Ra’am hopes to solidify paradigm shift

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If there were ever a moment to believe Mansour Abbas’s mantra that he and his Ra’am party are serious about leading a paradigm shift that will remake the integration of Arab society within Israel — that time might be now.

During the three weeks that Ra’am kept Israeli politics on the edge of its seat, by freezing its participation in a coalition that would have become a minority without it, shifting circumstances only made it more complicated for the Islamist Arab party to come back.

As the days went by and the government’s internal troubles grew, many even wondered whether the party had a coalition to return to. During Ra’am’s timeout, the Likud-led opposition made countless claims that they were on the verge of prying away additional defectors from the coalition or laying out paths to Knesset dissolution. Those efforts hit a crescendo this past Wednesday with the planned submission of a bill to dissolve the Knesset. This created a state of widespread political stress that led some to believe the very fears of government collapse could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. (The bill was eventually pulled when Likud realized it did not actually have the votes to pass it.)

Tensions and unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, which caused much outrage among Ra’am’s voter base, had been the stated reason for its step back. The party had apparently hoped that during its few weeks outside the government, the issue would die down. But the matter remained far from resolved during the timeout, and Ra’am’s call for Jordan’s voice in determining a clear, acceptable status quo for the holy hilltop was met by a blunt refusal by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to submit to foreign dictates about policy at the site.

Putting further pressure on Abbas, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar labeled him “Abu Righal,” after a legendary pre-Islamic traitor, for “serv[ing] as a support to this government which violates Al-Aqsa.” The subsequent threats that Abbas received necessitated increased security at his family home.

Compounding all that, on Wednesday morning, hours before Ra’am was slated to deliver its decision on how it would proceed with the current government, tragedy struck. Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed while covering a military operation and ensuing firefights between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin. She was shot in the head by an unidentified party under circumstances still in dispute. The outcries from the Arab street, the Palestinian Authority, and even Ra’am were instantaneous, and the party pushed its planned press conference back by several hours in response.

The situation on Wednesday morning was so tense that Kamil Rayan, who is........

© The Times of Israel

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