Israel's Bennett shifts position on Mansour Abbas, describing him as a 'brave leader'
In an interview with Channel 12 News, the Yamina leader walked back on previous comments where he described the politician as "a supporter of terrorism".
He went on to say that Abbas' actions during the recent protests against Israeli ethic cleansing had changed his mind.
"During the war and the riots, there was something that caught my attention. Abbas came to the synagogue in Lod during the tensest moments and said, 'I want to help'," said Bennett.
They say Netanyahu is a divisive politician, but he did bring together some pretty unusual allies ... to kick him out of office. Pictured: Yair Lapid, secular leader of Israeli opposition, Naftali Bennett, settler party head, and Mansour Abbas, leader of Islamist Arab party Raam. pic.twitter.com/7D80Gtod3R— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) June 2, 2021
Bennett referenced a visit made by Abbas to the Beit Yisrael synagogue, which was set on fire during protests against Israeli aggressions.
"I saw a decent man, I saw a brave leader, it must be said. Now, time will tell. I can't guarantee anything. But when he extends a hand and says something very simple: 'I want to take care of Arab Israelis’ civilian concerns...' If you look at the coalition agreements, which we’ll make public, you won’t find a single word of nationalism," he added.
Bennett’s new found respect for Abbas follows the recent announcement that the United Arab List will join Yamina and Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, to form a coalition government, ousting longtime PM Benjamin Netanyahu from office.
Bennett described the inclusion of the United Arab List as "a non-negligible opportunity to turn over a new leaf in the relationship between the state and Arab Israelis".
During the interview, Bennett also addressed his promise from the most recent election campaign to not serve in a government led by Yair Lapid, which he has subsequently agreed to do.
"The core promise of this election was to extricate Israel from chaos... I realised that if we stuck to that [pledge], we wouldn’t extricate the country from chaos," he said.
Leader of the United Arab List Mansour Abbas also expressed his reticence about joining Lapid’s governing coalition, describing it as a “difficult decision”.
"This is the first time an Arab party is a partner in the formation of a government..This agreement has a lot of things for the benefit of [Palestinian] society, and Israeli society in general," he told reporters.