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.
legislation that downgraded the status of the Arabic language and said that only Jews had the right to determine the nature of the Israeli state. In a previous election, Mr. Netanyahu warned of high Arab turnout as a threat to encourage his own supporters to vote.
Raam would also be cooperating with an alliance that includes far-right politicians who want to expel Arab citizens of Israel they deem “disloyal” to the Israeli state. One of those politicians, Itamar Ben Gvir, until recently hung in his home a picture of a Jewish extremist who murdered 29 Palestinian Muslims in a West Bank mosque in 1994.
But Mr. Abbas is prepared to consider these possible associations because he believes it is the only way for Arab citizens to secure government support in the fight against the central problems assailing the Arab community — gang violence, poverty and restrictions on their access to housing, land and planning permission.
In the past, “Arab politicians have been onlookers in the political process in Israel,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in February. Today, he added, “Arabs are looking for a real role in Israeli politics.”
The move would mark the culmination of a gradual process in which Arab parties and voters have grown incrementally more involved in the electoral process.
Raam, a Hebrew acronym that stands for the United Arab List, is affiliated with a branch of an Islamist movement that for years did not participate in Israeli elections. Raam was founded in 1996 after some members of that movement voted by a narrow margin to run for Parliament, an event that split the movement in two. The other branch, which Israel has outlawed and whose leader it has jailed, does not participate in elections.
the third-largest party in three recent Israeli elections, in a sign of the Arab minority’s growing political sway.
said if a right-wing government of Zionist parties was impossible to assemble, his party would consider “options that are currently undesirable but perhaps better than a fifth election.”
Raam’s newfound relevance constitutes “a historical moment,” said Basha’er Fahoum-Jayoussi, the co-chairwoman of the board of the Abraham Initiatives, a nongovernmental group that promotes equality between Arabs and Jews. “The Arab vote is not only being legitimized but the Palestinian-Arab community in Israel is being recognized as a political power with the ability to play an active and influential part in the political arena.”
The news was also greeted happily in the Negev desert, where dozens of Arab villages are threatened with demolition because they were built without authorization.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, has accused Mr. Abbas of assenting to a relationship with the Israeli state that frames Arabs as subjects who can be bought off, rather than as citizens with equal rights.
“Mansour Abbas is capable of accepting this,” Mr. Odeh said in an interview before the election. “But I will not.”
Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.
Dr. Saadawi was among some 1,500 activists jailed by President Sadat shortly before his assassination in October 1981. She was released three months later and published, in Arabic, “Memoirs From the Women’s Prison,” in 1983.
Her message and manner drew equivocal assessments in the West.
After the first of Dr. Saadawi’s books to be translated into English, “The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World,” was published in the United States in 1982, by Beacon Press, Vivian Gornick, reviewing it in The New York Times Book Review, wrote, “For an American feminist it is a curious work.”
“Written by a Marxist who has read Freud,” she went on, “in a country and for a people that require an educated introduction to the idea of equality for women, the book seems disoriented by the inorganic nature of its understanding.”
Four years later, reviewing Dr. Saadawi’s novel “God Dies by the Nile,” the Indian-born American writer Bharati Mukherjee wrote that the author “bears down on social issues with directness and passion, transforming the systematic brutalization of peasants and of women into powerful allegory.”
She added, “This directness may put off American readers.”
Under President Mubarak, Sadat’s successor, Dr. Saadawi was placed under police guard, supposedly to protect her from Islamist threats. Her name was included on a so-called death list published in Saudi Arabia.
After fleeing to Duke, where she taught from 1993 to 1996, Dr. Saadawi wrote two more volumes of autobiography. When she returned to Egypt she continued to face fundamentalist accusations of apostasy and heresy. She announced plans to run for president against Mr. Mubarak in 2004 but resolved instead to boycott the election when her followers were threatened.
Into her 80s she seemed to suggest that her struggle was far from over.
“Do you feel you are liberated?” she asked a writer for The Guardian, a woman, in an interview in 2015. When the writer nodded her head, Dr. Saadawi said, “Well, I feel I am not.”
The pope’s trip was intended to underline the tragic costs of failing to achieve that fraternity. On Sunday, he visited Mosul, once the capital of the Islamic State’s caliphate, and now a devastated monument to the destruction wrought by the militants, with buildings and churches reduced to rubble, families decimated and traumatized, a once vibrant Christian population long gone.
He said the ruins had left him “speechless,” and added that as he stood in front of the obliterated Catholic church, as well as other demolished churches and mosques, he thought “I couldn’t believe” such cruelty existed.
Francis, who has made mercy a cornerstone of his pontificate, said the thing that most moved him were remarks by a woman in Qaraqosh, the northern Iraq town with the country’s largest Christian population, who talked about how she had lost her children to the Islamic State, but nevertheless had sought forgiveness for the militants.
The Vatican expressed great satisfaction with Francis’ trip, in which he made bold symbolic gestures, but also came through on concrete action, including a statement of support for Iraq’s Christians by Ayatollah Sistani.
Still, there is a question of whether the pope’s trip will have any real and lasting impact.
“You don’t resolve the problems of a country like Iraq overnight and with a bit of ecumenism,” Archbishop Gallagher said. He called it “a significant contribution” in which the pope “has done something, it’s worked out, it’s overcome lots of obstacles — and I think that sends a strong message.”
“In a very spiritual dimension,” Archbishop Gallagher added, the pope is saying “No, we shouldn’t just abdicate our responsibility or contribution. We can all do something.”
But there are also those who worry the pope, in causing crowds during his visit, had done something he may one day regret.
MOSUL, Iraq — After the Islamic State took control of Mosul seven years ago and declared it the capital of its caliphate, the terrorist group sought to strike fear deep into the West by vowing to conquer Rome.
But with the Islamic State pushed from the city, it was Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who on Sunday came to Mosul. In an extraordinary moment on the last full day of the first papal trip to Iraq, Francis went to the wounded heart of the country, directly addressing the suffering, persecution and sectarian conflict that have torn the nation apart.
“Now Rome has come here,” Ghazwan Yousif Baho, a local priest who invited Francis to Mosul, said as he awaited the pope’s arrival. “He will bring his blessing to spread peace and brotherhood. It’s the beginning of a new era.”
Francis is the first to make the trip. In doing so, he has sought to protect an ancient but battered and shrunken Christian community, build relations with the Muslim world and reassert himself on the global stage after being grounded for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
ISIS expelled those who remained. Only about 350 Christians have returned since ISIS was driven out in 2017 — almost all of them to the more prosperous east side, which suffered far less damage.
“I especially welcome, then, your invitation to the Christian community to return to Mosul,” said Francis, who has praised young volunteers, Muslim and Christian, working to rebuild churches and mosques.
“I am sure it will be a first step for them to come back,” said Anas Zeyad, a Muslim engineer who is part of an international project to rebuild the churches. He said that Christians who had fled the city “have memories, they have Muslim friends, they have homes here.”
After praying for the dead, and for the repentance of their killers, Francis, who suffers from sciatica and limps heavily, took a golf cart to the Syriac Catholic church that ISIS had used as a courthouse. On the way, he passed a cartoon mural of three girls at play, their faces blacked out. ISIS forbid depictions of people and animals.
“We were living here in Mosul, all together, Christians, Muslims,” said Rana Bazzoiee, 37, a pediatric surgeon, who fled Mosul in ahead of the ISIS takeover in 2014. She said that, while a semblance of normalcy had returned to the city, the pope’s visit could improve things further. “Why not?” she said. “We lived together for a long time in Mosul.”
In his whirlwind trip, Francis has sought to make significant progress in tightening bonds between his church and the Muslim world. On Saturday, the country’s most powerful and reclusive Shiite, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, met with the pope and released a statement stressing that Christian citizens deserved to “live like all Iraqis in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.”
Francis called for brotherhood at a meeting of minorities on the desert plains of Ur, what tradition holds is the homeland of Abraham, revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.
Two earlier popes had tried and failed to visit Christians in Iraq, but it was Francis, who as pontiff has prioritized reaching out to the marginalized and forgotten, who succeeded.
On Sunday afternoon, the faithful in Qaraqosh, the largest town of the Ninevah Plains that are Iraq’s Christian heartland, thanked him for it. They lined the streets outside the al-Tahira Syriac Catholic Church, clapping and ululating as his vehicle approached.
Residents of Qaraqosh have spent the past three months preparing the town for the pope’s arrival and the past four years repairing the damage done by ISIS. For many, Francis’ visit was a chance to celebrate the community’s survival.
A young priest holding a scarf danced in the street near the church while a group of white-robed nuns on a rooftop held brightly colored balloons. Women and girls wearing traditional Christian dress, with brightly colored wraps embroidered with scenes of church and home life, waved olive branches.
Hundreds crowded into the church, prompting one Vatican official to complain to Iraqi organizers that there was not sufficient space between people in the pews. Masks were often disregarded. But the coronavirus seemed the least of attendants’ worries.
Qaraqosh, just 20 miles from Mosul, was overtaken by the Islamic State in 2014 and held for three years before being liberated by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces. Its 50,000 residents fled when ISIS arrived, and those who returned found burned and looted houses and badly damaged churches. About half the pre-2014 population never came back.
ISIS had turned many homes into car bomb factories — including that of Edison Stefo, a school principal who was among the parishioners waiting in the church.
He said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage Christians to return.
“This is like a dream,” Mr. Stefo said. “We feel like he is one of us — that he is from our area and knows what we went through.”
The pope ended the day by celebrating Mass at a stadium in Erbil. In the days leading up to the visit, as coronavirus infections spiked in Iraq and concerns grew about potential crowds, the Vatican insisted that all events would be socially distanced and safe.
But priests organized trips to the Mass, packing buses with parishioners. More than 10,000 people, many in white hats emblazoned with the pope’s face, entered the stadium. They hummed along with chants and expressed joy and relief that a pope had finally come to find them.
Calling himself “a pilgrim in your midst,” Francis concluded the last public event of his trip, which ends on Monday when he returns to Rome. “Today,” he said. “I can see at first hand that the church in Iraq is alive.”
Sangar Khaleel contributed reporting from Erbil, Iraq.