(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas actively meddled in 2015 Knesset election in an effort to unseat Israeli 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 ran on a joint list called 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 (although they have principally opposed to entering a coalition).
Salam confirmed that he worked hard to bolster turnout that day and his efforts paid off: 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, who refuted Salam’s version of events. He denied Abbas tried to pressure Salam to increase turnout to the benefit of the Joint Arab List. But shortly after Madani’s interview ended, Salam spoke with the station and reiterated his claim again.