Ali Salam Vindicates Bibi Netanyahu — Surprise!
Nazareth Mayor Salam: Bibi was right! Arabs were surging to the polls . . . under the influence of Abu Mazen. And I helped them do so. And I have a good reason for sharing this now.
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Seems like a growing part of international diplomatic relations involves clandestine efforts to influence elections in countries that are not one’s own. The USA is worried that Russia is using espionage to change the natural course of the American presidential election by disclosing the underhanded manipulations that apparently took place in making sure that Hillary won the Democratic nominations over Sanders.
Of direct concern to us Israelis, the US State Department has revealed that the suspicions that Obama and/or his people illegally interfered in the most recent Israeli elections may be based on fact. And now we have a disclosure that suggests that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman, Abu Mazen (also called Mahmoud Abbas), tried to alter Israeli history via our elections. Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam admitted that Abu Mazen called him on the day of elections with a request.
Ali Salam’s Disclosure
Mabat TV News reported on this disclosure on the August 3 evening news broadcast. The full newscast in Hebrew is no longer available online since the Israel Broadcasting Association closed and a new public station inaugurated; before that happened, I translated the relevant segment into Englih. Below Salam’s disclosure quote, I will tell you why I think he did it.
Yaakov Eilon: When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, on election day, that the Arabs are surging to the polling stations, did he base this on intelligence information? That is an open question this evening, but these are the facts. Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam today told Kol Yisrael [radio station] in Arabic that on election day he had a telephone call from Abu Mazen that urged him to urge Israeli Arabs to surge to the polling stations and vote for the United Arab List and, in fact, he did that successfully. Listen:
“Ali Salam: Let’s go back to election day — until 3 p.m., the voting percentage stood at 20% when Abu Mazen asked me to do something about it. I did and I caused the voting to reach 90% by 7 p.m.
Interviewer: In other words, in fact, the voting percentages rose after the Palestinian Authority chairman turned to you?
Salam: I’m telling you something – don’t delve into it too deeply.
Interviewer: You know – I’m saying that because it is very important.
Salam: It is very important – I was also given promises; I don’t want to go into details. If you would like, invite me to the programme and we’ll go into it and the promises Abu Mazen gave me and broke.
Interviewer: What did he promise you?
Salam: He promised me a full coalition in Nazareth.”
Eilon: We are now with you, political correspondant Boaz Shapira — give us some responses. Things like this can go without response?
Boaz Shapira: Let’s remember the 2015 elections. Netanyahu was fighting for each and every vote. Therefore, he wanted to shake up those who were wavering in placing their votes and he said: “The Arabs are surging en masse in buses. He said that from the morning hours, when voting percentages were low among the Jews as well. The Arabs are surging in buses – here we hear about encouragement on the part of Abu Mazen. The Prime Minister spoke then about leftist NGOs that were putting this together in an organized fashion. On top of that, with greater or lesser accuracy in the details, we apparently have here proof that Abu Mazen acted, even if he denies it (there are those arguments), that there are pressures coming from the PA to influence Israeli Arabs. That is a very sensitive issue, whether or not Israeli Arabs listen to the PA, whether the PA influences them. It is clear that the United Arab List was making every effort to come out of these elections especially strongly – this was the first time that all the Arab parties ran together and the PA had been active in the formation of the List. There were publications that said just that at that time. So we are talking about a kind of motivation that everyone can guess exists, but here comes a kind of proof from someone accused by the Hadash Party, a party from which he had resigned, as unreliable — that one cannot trust what he says. In spite of that, he is sticking with his position. There are those who are saying that he will be the next mayor of Nazareth [again]; he is very popular. There are those that do support what he says.
Eilon: And he has an ongoing conflict with the leader of the United Arab List, Ayman Odeh.
Shapira: Yes, an ongoing conflict and therefore we might say that there can be some doubt about what he is saying, but he does come out and claim that he had had a particular telephone call and from that moment, it expresses a mood that many say feels familiar.
Interesting Timing For Disclosure of PA Influence on Israeli Elections
According to HaModia, Netanyahu issued yet another apology for his unfortunately worded plea to the Israeli public to get out to the polling stations and vote. If Salam’s disclosure of Abu Mazen’s fiddling around with Israeli elections is true, then Netanyahu should have had harsher words for his supposed “peace partner” and perhaps even harsh words for Israeli Arabs who fell in line with foreign influence. But Bibi has not yet had anything to say about that. Instead, Salam asks the Arab Israeli public to put all that behind them and rally around the country’s elected prime minister and HaModia shares that with us.
In his own comments, Salam said that Israeli Arabs should “give the Prime Minister a chance,” and members of the United Arab List should accept his apology. “I have been seeing a change [in Netanyahu]. Let him continue supplying us with funds like he does the Jews, let him talk about true peace, let him sit with [Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud] Abbas and talk peace. I believe in strong people, they are the ones who can bring peace.”
At the beginning of 2016, the Prime Minister’s Press Office uploaded to YouTube a meeting between Netanyahu and Salam. The sound begins at 15 seconds into the video and English subtitles are provided.
I don’t know how many of us were aware of that meeting between Salam and Bibi, but most of us had seen clips of Salam chewing out Ayman Odeh in October 2015 and telling him to go back to Haifa and leave Nazareth alone.
Putting It All Together: Why Salam Exposed the PA’s Meddling in Israeli Elections and Why Now!
We have seen interesting developments over the past few months in Israeli government relations with the Israeli Arab population. The first Arab Deputy Police Commissioner was appointed and with it a budget provided to improve law and order in Arab towns and communities. The first courthouse is being built in an Arab city. Legislation was submitted that would make Arabic mandatory in all Israeli schools from first grade.
At the same time, there are brave Arab Israelis, Muslims as well as Christians, who are openly self-identifying as Zionists and supportive of Jewish Israel, a country to which they feel grateful to belong. More and more of these young Arabs are volunteering to serve in the IDF and protect the country they love.
I am going to hazard a guess here and suggest that Salam feels changing tides in this country – I am guessing that the traditional Arab parties that seem downright belligerent toward the country that pays their salary and the Knesset to which they had to profess loyalty upon accepting their jobs as MKs are appearing less attractive to the younger generation. I can even imagine a growing swell of support for Arab leaders who will promise their electorate to take care of their real needs as Israelis as opposed to old-time Arab MKs who still seem more interested in attending to the needs of Arabs living in the PA.
Therefore, I believe that Ali Salam is preparing to move from his successful stint as mayor of Nazareth onto the national political stage. In order to gain Bibi’s total trust and motivate Bibi to help him up the ladder, I believe that Salam had to offer him something of substance. Announcing Abu Mazen’s complicity, the behind-the-scenes event that may have been what led Bibi to make that unfortunately worded plea to Israeli voters could be just the gift required.
I think we should prepare to see more of Ali Salam.