The head of an Islamist party in Israel's parliament says his faction will advance the interests of Palestinian citizens of Israel from within the new government.
Mansour Abbas said Sunday that his Raam party was making great sacrifices for the sake of his constituents, and will try ``to advance a dialog that will bring about better, new, principled relations for all citizens of the state: Jews and Arabs.''
Raam is the first Arab party to join an Israeli government, and Abbas said that the partnership in the new government ``will also bridge the gaps on the national level and the religious level.''
Abbas said that combatting crime and violence that has plagued Arab communities in Israel is a ``top priority'' for Israel's Palestinian minority.
Abbas spoke ahead of a parliamentary vote that was expected to approve the new coalition government. Arabs make up about 20% of Israel's citizens and largely identify with Palestinians in the neighboring West Bank and Gaza Strip.