Israeli Arab Knesset Member Mansour Abbas caught the attention of Israelis around the country Tuesday when he conceded that “the State of Israel was born as a Jewish state.”
Abbas leads the Islamist Ra’am Party (Joint List in English), a tiny but critical component of the Bennett-Lapid coalition, which it has the choice to support and the power to bring down. He made his – on the face of it – astounding statement to interviewer Mohammed Majadele at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv.
Majadele’s response was a double take. “Wait a moment,” he interrupted in what sounded like disbelief, “the State of Israel was born…?”
“Was born a Jewish state and will remain a Jewish state. Period,” recapped Abbas firmly, to the applause of the audience in the room.
“I’ve never heard this. No Arab member of Knesset has ever said it,” Majadele gasped.
His surprise was echoed in the prominence given Abbas’s words in the Israeli press.
Abbas – by profession a trained dentist – was the kingpin enabling the right-wing Naftali Bennett and left-wing Yair Lapid to cobble together their incongruent government.
The Arab parliamentarian is also deputy chairman of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel which is an affiliate of the devout, terrorist-breeding Muslim Brotherhood.
His religious credentials are what make his declaration about Israel astonishing, but also suspect.
Palestinian Arab recognition of Israel as “a state” is not news. As far back as December 1988 the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Yasser Arafat endorsed a document which stated that “the PLO recognises the right of the State of Israel to exist in the region.” The terror chief confirmed this in the preamble to the Oslo Agreement he signed in 1993, which states that “The PLO recognises the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” **
But to recognise Israel as a sovereign Jewish state in territory that was previously under Muslim rule is anathema to Islam. While the Land of Israel was never an Islamic (much less a Palestinian) state, it was for centuries ruled over as part of their empires by Muslim caliphs and so, according to Islam, was inside the Dar el’Islam (House of Islam) which that religion holds can never revert to Jewish rule.
Former Prime Minister Binyamin’s Netanyahu’s insistence that Arafat’s successor, the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas (no relation to the MK), recognise Israel as a Jewish state was understood to be part of the Israeli premier’s strategy to deadlock Palestinian statehood negotiations. The PA chairman has remained adamant in his out and out rejection of this demand.
“We will never recognise the Jewishness of the State of Israel” Abbas stated specifically in 2014.
And last September 26, he was reported in the Al-Monitor to threaten to no longer recognise Israel in any form at all.
For his part, Knesset Member Abbas says his ultimate aim is to see the Jews’ ancestral homeland divided into two states.
It is in pursuit of this goal that he has sought to position himself pragmatically inside the Israeli legislature, walking a fine line between pro-Palestinianism and his citizenship. He even, according to a recent in-depth article about him the New Yorker, has two advisors who argue the one side against the other, helping him determine which way he will lean as best suits his strategy.
In an interview earlier this year he said: “My rights don’t just come from my citizenship. My rights also come from being a member of the Palestinian people, a son of this Palestinian homeland. And whether we like it or not, the State of Israel, with its identity, was established inside the Palestinian homeland.”
“We are inside [the government] and now we need to play the game and find solutions to the problems we encounter and deal with in one way or another,” he said in Tuesday’s Globes interview.
This approach, he said “will surely lead us to increase trust and move towards a process in which a State of Palestine will be established here next to the State of Israel in accordance with the vision I believe in.”
** In a mosque in Johannesburg, South Africa the following year, Arafat repudiated the Oslo Accords, which he compared to “the despicable agreement” Islam’s founder centuries earlier had made, and then broken, with a Jewish tribe in Arabia. Arafat appealed to tekkiyah – an Islamic tenet that permits Muslims to lie to, and deceive, their enemies.