JERUSALEM — After a fourth Israeli election in two years appears to have ended in another stalemate, leaving many Israelis feeling trapped in an endless loop, there was at least one surprising result on Wednesday: An Arab political party has emerged as a potential kingmaker.
Even more surprising, the party was Raam, an Islamist group with roots in the same religious movement as Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip. For years, Raam was rarely interested in working with the Israeli leadership and, like most Arab parties, was ostracized by its Jewish counterparts.
But according to the latest vote count, Raam’s five seats hold the balance of power between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and the motley alliance of parties that seeks to end his 12 years in power. The vote tally is not yet final, and Raam has previously suggested it would only support a government from the outside.
Still, even the possibility of Raam playing a deciding role in the formation of a coalition government is making waves in Israel. An independent Arab party has never been part of an Israeli government before, although some Arab lawmakers supported Yitzhak Rabin’s government from the outside in the 1990s.
Mansour Abbas, the party’s leader, said in a television interview on Wednesday. In the past, he added, mainstream parties “were excluding us and we were excluding ourselves. Today, Raam is at least challenging the political system. It is saying, ‘Friends, we exist here.’”
The party is not in “anyone’s pocket,” he added. “I am not ruling out anyone but if someone rules us out, then we will of course rule him out.”
leave the country.