Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. (AP/Majdi Mohammed, File) (AP/Majdi Mohammed, File)
Mahmoud Abbas

The mayor of Nazareth says Abbas offered him political power in his predominantly Arab city in return for supporting Israel’s Arab political party. 

Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas actively meddled in the 2015 Knesset elections in an effort to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam told Israel Radio on Tuesday.

Salam said that on Election Day, March 17, 2015, Abbas called him and enticed him to bolster the turnout in his city, the largest Arab city in Israel, with the hope that this would translate into more votes for the Arab parties, which united together to form the Joint Arab List.

Prior to the election, some speculated that if no clear winner emerged, the Arabs could make Labor Chairman Isaac Herzog prime minister by throwing their support behind him.

Salam confirmed that he worked hard to bolster turnout that day and that his efforts paid off. Arab Voter turnout spiked from 20 percent at noon to 90 percent in the evening. Salam said Abbas promised him a quid pro quo, by pressing one of the factions in the city to sign a coalition deal with his administration and thus increasing his clout. It is unclear when that promise was made.

On Wednesday, Israel Radio interviewed Muhammad Al-Madani, a senior Palestinian official and a close associate of Abbas whose position involves maintaining ties with Israeli society. Al-Madani refuted Salam’s version of events. He denied Abbas had tried pressuring Salam to increase turnout for the benefit of the Joint Arab List. He also accused Salam of concocting the story in order to improve his own standing in the city.

Shortly after Madani’s interview ended, Salam spoke with the station and reiterated his claim.

Official sources in Jerusalem maintain that Abbas did in fact phone Salam on election day, urging him to use his influence to persuade Arab Nazareth residents to vote for the Joint List, Israel Radio reported.

By: JNS.org and United with Israel Staff