Arab-Israeli Dentist Holds Sway Over Israel’s Next Government

TEL AVIV—The man who could determine who forms Israel’s next government is a 46-year-old Arab-Israeli dentist.

Mansour Abbas controls four seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament through his Islamist party, Ra’am.

He is the first leader of an Arab-Israeli party to declare he would support any government ready to help the country’s disadvantaged Arab minority and, after March’s close-fought election—the country’s fourth in two years—again left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggling to cobble together a ruling coalition, he could make an unlikely kingmaker.

“I don’t want to be part of any bloc, right or left. I am here in a different bloc—the bloc that voted for me to serve my people,” Mr. Abbas said in a speech a few days after the vote.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, said Mr. Abbas’s willingness to support Mr. Netanyahu or another contender is a potential game-changer for Israeli politics. Until now, Arab-Israeli parties have largely focused on the historic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and have been reluctant to play a role in any Israeli government. Only once has an independent Arab-Israeli party supported a ruling coalition.

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