Netanyahu: Bennett, Lapid Sold Out the Negev to Ra’am

YERUSHALAYIM -
MK Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party, arrives at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan for coalition talks on Wednesday. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed Thursday that the Lapid-Bennett coalition has “sold out the Negev to Ra’am.”

In a social media post, Netanyahu presented a chart that he claims compares his own concessions to Ra’am with those of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.

Netanyahu claimed that Lapid and Bennett agreed to cancel the Kaminitz Law, which upped enforcement of building restrictions, while his own agreement with Ra’am does not.

He claimed that Lapid and Bennett agreed to recognize “most of the illegal Bedouin settlements in the Negev,” whereas he agreed to approve only three.

According to Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett are willing to hand NIS 52.5 billion in “state funding to the Arab sector,” whereas he agreed to only NIS 15 billion.

And he also claimed that unlike Bennett and Lapid, he never agreed to let Ra’am be part of his coalition, but only sought its support for one-off legislation for direct election of a prime minister.

Meanwhile, Abbas on Thursday morning confirmed that talks between himself and Netanyahu had continued in recent days as well.

“There were talks with Netanyahu yesterday and the day before,” Abbas told Army Radio. “Everyone tries to influence me in a situation like this.”

“I came from a very open position. I said that I am not on the Right or Left, and I can form a government led by the Right with Netanyahu, and also a unity government or a government of change.

“I released myself from belonging to this bloc or that bloc, and I held negotiations with both sides, and there was an open relationship and we spoke about everything. I’m not interested in telling exactly what this person or that person said,” he emphasized.

Earlier on Thursday, Ra’am unveiled its coalition agreement with Yesh Atid. Under the agreement, they will chair the Knesset’s Interior Committee and the Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs, and will receive the position of Deputy Knesset Speaker.

According to reports, the coalition deal includes a deputy ministerial post for Ra’am in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Ra’am leadership, its Shura Council, has yet to decide if the party will activate that article in the agreement and appoint such a deputy minister, and it’s not yet clear what the post’s powers or areas of responsibility would be.

But if Ra’am ends up with a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, that would be a first for the Islamist party.