You read that correctly: Arab Islamists were elected to the Knesset. United Arab List, a party known in Israel by the acronym Raam, in fact won four seats in parliament. Because yes, a political movement from the Muslim Brotherhood does exist in Israel, a Jewish and democratic state.
The presence of political Islam in the Hebrew state dates back to the 1970s. A part of Israeli Arabs, 21% of society, are seduced by the pan-Arabism of the Muslim Brotherhood and perhaps also inspired by the marriage between religion and state started by post-Six-Day War religious Zionism. They want to re-Islamize Arab society through a vast network of charitable foundations. But the question of the relationship with Israel divides and, in 1996, the movement splits in two. Radical, the northern branch is led by the cleric Raed Salah, now in prison for inciting terrorism. That of the south, conciliatory towards Israel, focuses its action more on socioeconomic issues than on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The dentist of Galileo who could seal the fate of the prime minister is the product of this Islamism. Mansour Abbas, author of the Charter of the Islamic Movement, delivered sermons in the mosque at barely 17 years old. In 2007, he became secretary general of the United Arab List. The man decided just before these fourth legislative elections to leave his Arab allies and the Israeli left considered too liberal.
Societal conservatism is what allows it to make its way in Israeli politics. “What do I have in common with the left? On religious questions, I am on the right, ”Mansour Abbas said recently. He will find someone to talk to given the composition of the parliament, which has even fewer women than the previous one.
The second key to the Islamist mystery in Israel is political pragmatism. The politician defends the work undertaken with the Zionist parties to allow the improvement of living conditions and the preservation of traditions. An approach similar to that of the ultra-Orthodox parties which also do not attach particular value to the state. “All these reactionary men have been working together for years. The result of these elections only brings to light their collaboration, ”notes the Israeli Arab feminist activist Samah Salaime.
The big gap
Here he is today in potential “kingmaker” with an astonishing set of musical chairs. Remember that 61 out of 120 seats are needed to form a coalition. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc only wins 52. Among those who do not support him, two parties could possibly be tempted by an alliance: Yamina, the formation of Naftali Bennett, much appreciated by the settlers of the religious right, who has won seven seats. And this famous United Arab List, which obtained four.
Provided that the septuagenarian Netanyahu succeeds in an extraordinary big gap. He would have to convince the Israeli Arabs, three years after having orchestrated the inscription of the law on the nation-state which made them second-class citizens by reaffirming the privileges of the Jews in Israel. But above all, it should unite two extremes. The Joint List accuses the far right, which has also entered parliament for wanting to expel the Arabs and demolish Al-Aqsa, and the latter describes them as “supporters of terrorism who deny the existence of the State of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’. In short, it would take a miracle for “Bibi” to offer in this context an effective government to his tired compatriots.