06/11/2021, 14.32
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Fr Shomali: Arabs and the new anti-Netanyahu government

This Sunday, the Knesset will vote for a new cabinet that will end 12 years of undisputed power by the incumbent prime minister. For Palestinians, there is little hope for real change. But Mansour Abbas can work within the system to develop Israeli Arab communities. The Church works for dialogue and does not pass judgments on governments.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The purpose of the Bennett-Lapid government, which will seek the confidence of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) on Sunday is “to get rid of incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Fr Ibrahim Shomali, chancellor at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Speaking to AsiaNews 48 hours before a vote that might signal the end of 12 years of absolute and undisputed rule by the outgoing premier, Fr Shomali explained that in the past, “left and right never agreed, but today they have a common goal. Yet, I am not sure how much progress they will be able to make towards peace.”

“This cabinet is composed of people with two different visions of reality,” the Palestinian priest noted. Once they have addressed and settled the most important issues, “they will go to the polls as soon as possible'.

In the meantime, Netanyahu's supporters have launched a violent campaign against their adversaries, including death threats and protests; but, the new governing coalition seems to be holding up despite external attacks and their many ideological differences.

The climate of hatred and division has forced the Knesset to boost security measures ahead of a crucial moment in the country's recent history. A majority of 61 votes out of 120 is needed in the house.

Fr Shomali hopes that “this change will be favourable to the Palestinians, even though there are few opportunities and there is no great climate of trust around this cabinet, just as there seems to be no clear political vision and direction for the future.”

Still, “for the new government getting rid of Netanyahu is already a great success, because they see him as corrupt and unfit to lead the country. His hegemony over the country’s political life must end.”

After all, this is the glue “that allowed them to come together and reach an agreement after four inconclusive elections in the past two years amid a difficult economic and human situation.”

“Israel is perhaps the first country that will emerge from the pandemic and this is a success, but people are tired and upset and want real change. Some movement can be seen, but at the same time it is clear that there is no great sense of trust.” 

One of the key figures in the new majority is Mansour Abbas, an Arab Israeli leader who heads the Ra'am (United Arab List) party.

Born on 22 April 1974, married with three children, he trained as a dentist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After practising for some time, he become politically active in recent years.

Analysts note that whatever the outcome of Sunday's vote, Abbas will be able to claim before his electorate that he took an unprecedented step toward including Arab citizens into Israel’s inner circle of decision-makers.

“Within the future cabinet and ruling majority, there are not many Arabs,” Fr Shomali explained. Nevertheless, “On the one hand, they can defeat the government; on the other, they can try to reduce violence, work with the Israeli police and develop Arab villages that need progress, openness, and education.”

Abbas “is a newcomer to politics and so appears to be a new person. We still have no idea what his real goals are, but he seems to have a strong personality, and is someone who can make decisions for the good of both the community and Israel. The important thing is that he can work from within the institutions and can be an example of collaboration and coexistence for Arabs.”

The clergyman notes that the Church in the Holy Land remains focused on peace and dialogue in a region marked, even recently, by violence and bloody conflicts, as well as domestic tensions. “We are always working for reconciliation and to help this Arab community achieve peace.”

Lastly, “The Church does not want to pass a moral judgment on governments, but she hopes and works for exchange and dialogue, for living together. Although we are not holding out great hope, we still want to work and help restore trust.”

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