The new Israeli government sworn into power on Sunday is a motley coalition of political parties with no common ideology beyond ousting Benjamin Netanyahu and ending his 12-year rule. Skeptics rightly wonder how a government could survive that includes both an avid supporter of West Bank settlers like the new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas, a man Bennett once labeled a “supporter of terrorism” and now calls “a decent man.”
But 47-year-old Abbas, a dentist and leader of the United Arab List (Ra’am), a small Islamist party, was the kingmaker whose support allowed the new government to form and gain a majority in the Knesset. An even bigger irony of these strange bedfellows is that Ra’am — the first Arab party included in a governing coalition — might very well make Bennett’s government a transformational one. If Abbas’ gamble pans out — among other guarantees, the $16 billion he secured for investment in the Arab sector during the coalition agreements will certainly help — he could be the first of many Arab power brokers in a drastically more democratic Jewish state.