Muslim Brotherhood’s true colors on display as Arab Islamist party joins Jewish nationalists in Israeli coalition

Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid (top left) has managed to muster enough support across a broad political spectrum to achieve a government of “change.” (AFP/File Photo)
Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid (top left) has managed to muster enough support across a broad political spectrum to achieve a government of “change.” (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 05 June 2021

Muslim Brotherhood’s true colors on display as Arab Islamist party joins Jewish nationalists in Israeli coalition

Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid (top left) has managed to muster enough support across a broad political spectrum to achieve a government of “change.” (AFP/File Photo)
  • Mansour Abbas-led United Arab List’s decision marks the first time an Arab party will serve in an Israeli government
  • Analysts see the move as another example of a Muslim Brotherhood-inspired party putting power before principles

DUBAI: To govern is to choose, they say. Mansour Abbas, leader of Israel’s United Arab List, is likely to face a few difficult decisions over the coming weeks and months if, as seems likely, he and his party form part of a new governing coalition in Israel.

Late on Wednesday, it was announced that Abbas had agreed to join a coalition jointly led by Yair Lapid, of the centrist Yesh Atid party, and Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yemina. The irony of an Islamist political party eagerly closing ranks with Yemina, an alliance of Jewish nationalist parties, has not been lost on Palestinians or the wider Arab world.

Analysts see the development as yet another example of a Muslim Brotherhood-inspired party putting power and self-interest above principles when it comes to the crunch.




The head of the Arab Israeli Islamic conservative party Raam Mansour Abbas (R) signing a coalition agreement with Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid (L) and right-wing nationalist tech millionaire Naftali Bennett in Ramat Gan near the coastal city of Tel Aviv. (AFP/File Photo)

“The news was not surprising. Brotherhood affiliates have always used all means to achieve their political goals,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News.

“This cooperation is just another episode in a long-running drama that will continue to demonstrate the extent and willingness of the Muslim Brotherhood to cooperate with anyone except the governments of their own countries.”

Whether the marriage of convenience will last long enough is another matter. If approved in the Knesset, the coalition will bring an end to the 12-year premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu. It will also mark the first time that an Arab party has served in an Israeli government since the formation of the state of Israel in 1948.

If Abbas becomes a minister, he will be the first Arab politician to take a seat at the Israeli Cabinet table. Jewish-Israeli politicians and voters previously have viewed such participation as a step too far in compromising the Jewish nature of the state.

There has perhaps also been nervousness on the part of the Arab politicians themselves at active participation in the government of a state whose legitimacy, and even right to exist, is still so heavily disputed across much of the Arab and Muslim world.

These politicians range from Druze members of Netanyahu’s Likud party to the secular communists of Hadash, to representatives of the marginalized Bedouin minority in the south of Israel, some of whose members serve as volunteers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Then there is Abbas’ United Arab List, which is often known by its Hebrew acronym Raam. The United Arab List is the rump of Israel’s Islamic Movement and, as such, is understood to be aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

While Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip and is highly popular in the West Bank, does little to hide its origins in and friendships with the Muslim Brotherhood, the United Arab List is only affiliated to it. The Muslim Brotherhood is classified as a terrorist group by Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia among others.




Left to right: Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia's Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party; Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Talaat Fahmy; and Zaki Bani Rsheid of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. The outcomes of Islamist participation in democratic elections and governments have been problematic at best. (AFP)

In 2015, the Israeli government banned the Islamic Movement. Raed Salah, the leader of the northern wing from the town of Umm Al-Fahm, has repeatedly served prison terms on charges of inciting violence.

Abbas, a dentist from the village of Maghar who was elected to the Knesset in 2019, presents a more emollient face. He is believed to be from the more moderate southern wing of the party. However, he is an experienced politician.

“Mansour Abbas’ decision to work with Naftali Bennett is not surprising when you consider that he has cooperated with Netanyahu for several years now,” Mairav Zonszein, a senior analyst of Israel/Palestine affairs at the International Crisis Group (ICG), told Arab News.

Bennett, who will take the prime minister’s job for the first two years of a four-year term, served in the Sayeret Matkal and Maglan special forces units of the IDF, taking part in many combat operations before becoming a millionaire software entrepreneur.

“Abbas has a lot more in common with some of the right-wing religious Jewish political parties than with the left-wing Palestinian ones,” Zonszein said, referring to the Joint List alliance of Arab parties.




Women walk past election campaign billboards for Israel's right-wing Likud party (L), bearing a picture of its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the predominantly Arab Israeli electoral alliance the Joint List (2nd R) and the Islamic movement (R) in the Bedouin town of Rahat near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on March 10, 2021, ahead of the legislative election. (AFP/File Photo)

“It has yet to be seen what will come of this coalition. Its very formation is indicative of the political deadlock in Israeli politics caused both by Netanyahu’s domination as well as the demise of a Jewish left.”

To be fair to the United Arab List, it is hardly the first Islamic-rooted party to jump at the chance of sharing political power. Many Islamists hold that democracy is a Western invention and is incompatible with the primacy of God-given laws. Yet, often the view of the activist or participationist wing prevails.

Unsurprisingly, the outcomes of Islamist participation in democratic elections and governments have been problematic at best.

In Egypt, the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, some senior members balked at taking part in elections in 2011 following the so-called Arab Spring revolt which ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak as president.

Elected through the vehicle of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), its tumultuous period in government under Muhammad Mursi alienated the younger educated activists who instigated the anti-Mubarak protests and, over time, women and members of the country’s Christian minority.

Critics found the groups’ commitment to democracy to be questionable at best and viewed Mursi’s decision to run for office as little more than a cynical bid for power.




Mansour Abbas (R), head of Israel's conservative Islamic Raam party, is congratulated on the electoral victory in the northern Israeli village of Maghar on March 26, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

In Tunisia, Rached Ghannouchi, currently the speaker of the national assembly, has struggled to reconcile an Islamist worldview — strongly anti-Israel, anti-nationalist, pan-Islamic — with the compromises necessary for effective government following the ousting of the Ben Ali regime in 2011.

In Britain, where some Muslim Brotherhood leaders are now based, a review by senior civil servants and diplomats of the international Islamist network found parts of it had an “ambiguous relationship with violent extremism.”

The review identified a secretive cell structure, “with an elaborate induction and education program for new members. It relied heavily on group solidarity and peer pressure to maintain discipline. This clandestine, centralized and hierarchical structure persists to this day.”

In Turkey, where other elements of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership are based, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of what is usually described as a neo-Ottoman AKP party, has forged a political relationship with ultra-nationalist hard-liners.

In Israel, it is not clear what conditions Abbas has been able to gain in return for his participation in government. His calculations have become more sensitive in light of the fighting last month between Israel and Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, territories captured by Israel in 1967.

For 12 days from May 10, fighters loyal to Hamas traded missiles and artillery fire with the IDF. Almost 250 Palestinians, at least half of them women and children, died in the violence. In Israel at least 12 people were killed by Hamas rockets.




A boy walks past Arabic slogan reading: “Welcome to the intransigent Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood,” on May 25, 2021, in the Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the site of regular protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in favor of Jewish settlers. (AFP)

In the course of the fighting, largely Arab and mixed towns inside Israel, such as Jaffa, Lod, Haifa, Acre and Nazareth, were gripped by unrest. Israeli border police battalions were moved quickly back into Israel to deal with rioting, car burning and attacks on buildings.

Palestinians living inside Israel suffer from higher levels of unemployment and what they perceive as prejudice and discrimination.

Making up 21 percent of the population, they are generally poorer and less educated than Jewish Israelis — although they have a better standard of living than that enjoyed by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in the diaspora elsewhere in the Arab world.

Against this difficult backdrop, what will Abbas’ taking part in government mean, in practical and symbolic terms, for Israelis, Palestinians living in Israel, and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza?

“On the one hand, a Palestinian party entering the coalition is significant as it breaks a taboo and sets a precedent for the future,” the ICG analyst Zonszein told Arab News.

“On the other, there is as yet no reason to believe it will lead to the fundamental changes in discriminatory and destructive state policies against Palestinian citizens.”


Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
Updated 12 min 50 sec ago

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
  • Video showing brawl between Bassil’s entourage & young woman goes viral on social media, triggers waves of criticism
  • Bassil’s media office denied beating incident and said ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’

BEIRUT: A video of a brawl between a Lebanese woman and Head of Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil’s bodyguards after she publicly told him ‘shame on you’ went viral on Sunday.

The woman was having lunch with friends in a newly-opened restaurant at Al Batroun, the birthplace of Bassil, Lebanese President’s son-in-law and a strong political ally of Iran-backed party Hezbollah, when the altercation happened.

Once the woman, identified by media as Yasmine Al-Masri, saw Bassil at the restaurant she yelled at him saying the Arabic for “shame on you.”

She is believed to have been provoked by his audacity showing up in public as if he is not one of the major instigators and those responsible for the country’s political deadlock, economic collapse and corruption.

It was reported in different media outlets that Bassil’s entourage instantly rushed toward Al-Masri, whacked her brutally and pinned her down to the floor. Meanwhile as the bodyguards were violently silencing and preventing her from shouting, Bassil made his way hurriedly to his car.

Arab News contacted the restaurant where the incident happened.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

“The incident happened around lunchtime. She yelled at lawmaker Bassil and told him what means ‘shame on you’ for what you’ve been doing to the people… she reacted like any other independent citizen would do as to how dare he provocatively show his face in public,” a waiter told Arab News. He declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue and fear of losing his job.

In the video that Al-Masri recorded using her mobile phone, the footage showed the entourage escorting Bassil to his waiting car while her voice could be heard heatedly arguing with one of the bodyguards who walked toward her and battered her hand. The video footage was clearly flipped upside down after Al-Masri was attacked by the bodyguard and her phone got broken.

Revealing what happened, Al-Masri told MTV channel she yelled at Bassil once he entered the restaurant by telling him ‘tfeh 3lek’ [shame on you] maintaining that it is not a curse. “That is the least I could tell him. His bodyguard told me to keep my mouth shut and assaulted me. I stood up after I fell down due to the assault, grabbed my phone and followed the entourage wanting to film what they did,” she told the MTV stressing that her friend called others for help because she was brutally attacked.

Towards Sunday afternoon the video showing the incident snowballed on social media especially Twitter and Instagram.

Bassil’s media office claimed that he and his family were about to ride their car when a woman used foul language against him.

His entourage responded ‘naturally, peacefully and modernly’ to stop her from cursing, according to the media statement that confirmed the woman wasn’t beaten.

Bassil told Free Patriotic Movement supporters and members that ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’ and to respond accordingly.

In response to that, popular TV host Ghada Eid tweeted saying ‘the era of leaving corruption unfought is over’.

Following the incident, a hashtag with Al-Masri’s phrase [tfeh 3lek] became trending in Lebanon.

A twitter user called Hassan said ‘This is the best trending topic in Lebanon this year so far’

Mariana tweeted ‘By showing violent behavior, bullies try to hide their own weakness.’

Another used tweeted about Bassil saying ‘Small Man with a Giant Ego’.

Samer Al Khoury tweeted ‘so lovely how you [Bassil] always trend when it’s an insult or corruption what a disgrace you are’.

International Lebanese artist Elissa said on twitter ‘every hand that beats a woman should be broken’.


UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel
Updated 45 min 18 sec ago

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel
  • Labour’s Katherine McKinnell: Palestinians’ ‘aspiration for self-determination is one that we should wholeheartedly support’
  • MENA minister: ‘We’re firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel’

LONDON: British MPs on Monday debated implementing two petitions that call for economic sanctions against Israel and for the UK government to recognize the state of Palestine.

The petitions garnered over 100,000 signatures each, which according to British law means they must be considered for debate in Parliament.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle urged the government to push forward the two-state solution by recognizing the state of Palestine, but the majority of MPs that took part in the debate rejected the idea of sanctions against Israel.

Chairing the debate, Labour’s Katherine McKinnell said: “I share the deeply held concerns for the plight of the Palestinian people. Colleagues who have visited the region will know that the desire of the Palestinians to live in dignity and in peace in a state of their own is unmistakable. 

“Their aspiration for self-determination is one that we should wholeheartedly support. It’s right for the Palestinian people, and it’s right for the Israeli people.”

She added: “However, I don’t believe that sweeping sanctions of the kind proposed by the second petition would bring the prospect of a two-state solution any closer.”

That petition, which currently has over 386,000 signatures, said: “The government should introduce sanctions against Israel, including blocking all trade, and in particular arms.”

It added that Israel’s “disproportionate treatment of Palestinians and settlements that are regarded by the international community as illegal are an affront to civilised society.”

James Cleverly, the UK’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, reiterated the government’s position on economic sanctions against Israel, saying: “While we don’t hesitate to express disagreement with Israel whenever we feel it necessary, we’re firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel.”

Cleverly also rejected the second petition’s demand — that Britain immediately recognize a sovereign Palestinian state.

“There have, of course, been many calls over the years for recognition of Palestinian statehood,” he said.

“The UK government position is clear: The UK will recognize a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the object of peace. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot and will not end the occupation,” he added.

“The UK government continues to believe that without a negotiated peace agreement, the occupation and the problems that come with it will continue.”

Cleverly did, however, criticize Israel’s continued assaults on Palestinian homes in the occupied territories.

“The UK position on evictions, demolitions and settlements is longstanding, is public, and has been communicated directly to the government of Israel. That is: We oppose these actions,” he said.

Steve Baker, a Conservative MP, said he had made a “mistake” by deprioritizing the Israeli-Palestinian issue during a period of relative calm.

“The problem, of course, is that the conflict hadn’t gone away and has since returned with a ferocity,” he added.

Baker urged the government to actively pursue a two-state solution, a policy that he and other MPs pointed out has been endorsed by the government without ever being actively pursued. 

“I voted to recognize the state of Palestine,” he said. “I think if we’re serious about a two-state solution, it’s important that this Parliament and parliaments elsewhere, governments elsewhere, recognize the state of Palestine.”

Labour’s Naz Shah said she had a message for Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: “Those who support you in the Knesset (Parliament), the mood music is changing, the world is waking up to Israel’s actions, and all those who want to see lasting peace in the region know that to achieve such peace we must end the occupation, injustice and oppression. This starts with recognizing a viable Palestinian state.”

She warned Bennett: “We won’t be silent in pushing for Israel to be tried in the International Criminal Court for war crimes if any more Palestinian blood is unjustly spilled under a perverted interpretation of a right to self-defense.”


Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted
Updated 14 June 2021

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israel's military said on Monday it had stopped an attempt to smuggle weapons along the Jordanian border.

"IDF troops and the Israeli Police just thwarted a weapon smuggling attempt along the Jordanian border in the Arava area," the Israeli Defense Forces said. "Our troops confiscated weapons and apprehended a number of suspects."

An IDF reservist and a suspect were "moderately injured" and taken to hospital.


At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
Updated 36 min 50 sec ago

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
  • Turkish President is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden
  • Erdogan recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country

BRUSSELS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a revival of dialogue with fellow NATO member Greece to resolve long-standing disputes will serve “stability and prosperity” in the region.
Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit, Erdogan also lamented what he said was a lack of support by Turkey’s NATO allies in its fight against terrorism.
It was a veiled reference to Turkey’s disappointment with US military support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, who Ankara argues are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
Erdogan, who is vying to mend Turkey’s battered relations with its Western partners, is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
The Turkish strongman has recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country, which has been troubled by a currency crisis and an economic downturn made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turkey is on the frontline in the fight against terrorism in all relevant international platforms, especially NATO,” Erdogan said, adding that some 4,000 Daesh group fighters were “neutralized” in Turkish cross border operations.
“Turkey is the only NATO ally which has fought face-to-face and gave its young sons as martyrs for this cause,” Erdogan said. “Unfortunately, we did not receive the support and solidarity we expected from our allies and partners in our fight against all forms of terrorism.”
Last summer, a long-standing dispute between Turkey and Greece over boundaries and rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean flared anew after Ankara sent research vessels into waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction.
Diplomats from the two countries have held two rounds of talks in recent months for the first time in five years, while the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey also held reciprocal visits.
“I believe that reviving the channels of dialogue between (Turkey) and our neighbor and ally, Greece, and the resolution of bilateral issues will ... serve the stability and prosperity of our region,” Erdogan said, in a video address to a think tank event on the sidelines of the summit.
Erdogan’s talks with Biden are expected to focus on US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, as well as a dispute over Ankara’s acquisition of a Russian air defense system, which led to Turkey being removed from the F-35 fighter program and sanctions on defense industry officials.
Washington says the S-400 missiles, which Turkey purchased in 2019, pose a threat to NATO’s integrated air defense and has demanded that Ankara abandons the $2.5 billion system.
In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was “genocide.” Turkey denies that the deportations and massacres that began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide.
In Brussels, Erdogan met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
After his meeting with Erdogan, Macron tweeted that he wants to “move forward” with Turkey.
It was their first meeting since a dispute between the two countries reached its peak in October, after Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental health.
Both men discussed Libya and Syria issues, the Elysee said. Macron has accused Turkey of flouting its commitments by ramping up its military presence in Libya and bringing in jihadi fighters from Syria.
During the discussion with Johnson, the two leaders agreed to “work toward the resumption of travel between the UK and Turkey,” according to a Downing Street statement. Turkey has been pushing for a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions to allow British tourists to come to Turkey this summer.


Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
Updated 14 June 2021

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
  • Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he had received assurances from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan that he wanted foreign mercenaries to leave Libyan territory as soon as possible.
“We agreed to work on this withdrawal (of foreign mercenaries). It doesn’t just depend on the two of us. But I can tell you President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference at the end of a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels.
Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year as tensions between the two NATO allies worsened especially over the conflict in Libya.
Turkey deployed troops to Libya under an accord on military cooperation signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it repel an assault by forces from eastern Libya. It also sent thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya.