Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led Likud Party has reached out to the Palestinian Authority (PA) about encouraging Arab Israelis to back the premier in the March 23 elections, according to an Israeli media report.
Knesset member Fateen Mulla, a deputy minister in the Netanyahu’s Office, held talks with the members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, headed by panel leader Muhammad al-Madani, a close confidant of President Mahmoud Abbas, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported.
Palestinian sources in Ramallah told the Ynet that the PA had been in contact with Likud in the past few weeks over what the report called “quiet support” for Netanyahu in the coming election.
The discussions tackled mobilizing for Likud among Arab Israeli voters, or alternatively, encouraging them to not vote for the Joint List, a predominantly Arab faction that usually gains the lion’s share of the community’s support, sources said.
The Palestinians invited Likud representatives to hold face-to-face talks in Ramallah, but the Israeli side backed down, apparently due to security considerations, the report said. This offended the Palestinians, one source said, and the issue has now receded.
After Israeli elections were called in late 2020, PA analysts concluded that the campaign would be a battle between the right-wing Likud and the far-right New Hope led by Gideon Saar, along with the New Right party led by MK Naftali Bennett, the source explained, with the Palestinians preferring the relatively more moderate Likud of Netanyahu.
Palestinians are concerned that if either Saar or Bennett gain power it could lead to unilateral moves such as the annexation of large parts of the West Bank, sources noted.
The newspaper quoted Mulla as affirming that there had been talks, but he described them as covering “all sorts of things on the backburner.”
“We are trying to do good for Israel and the Middle East,” he told Yedioth. “I can’t go into more details than that.”
The Joint List, he stressed, “does not represent the Palestinian people.”
Saar responded to the report saying in a tweet: “Netanyahu’s attempt to involve PLO figures in the Israeli election is a new low. Netanyahu has no red lines. Time and again he proves that he has only personal interests, which outweigh the national interest.”
However, the Likud party described the report as “utter nonsense.”
“Everyone knows that the PA prefers [centrist Yesh Atid party leader Yair] Lapid as prime minister instead of Netanyahu.”
Meanwhile, the PLO’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society said in a statement following the report that “meeting various Israeli political parties is part of its mission,” which has not changed since its establishment in 2012.
The Committee works to end the Israeli occupation and solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with the establishment of the independent and fully sovereign state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the borders of June 4, 1967, it stressed.
“We have repeatedly seen in the various Israeli election campaigns many manifestations of Israelis defaming their opponents and in every time they involve the Palestinians in their campaign,” the statement said.