What happened: Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi yesterday retracted here resignation and re-joined the coalition.
- MK Rinawie Zoabi met yesterday with Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minster Yair Lapid, Minister Esawi Frej (from her own party) and several mayors of Arab towns.
- Following the meeting, Lapid said: “I accept MK Rinawie Zoabi back to the coalition. We held a frank, open, and level-headed discussion about the true needs of Arab society, with her and with the mayors, whom I thank for getting involved. We put the dispute behind us, and we’re returning to the work of the government.”
- Zoabi said: “After tremendous pressure by the Arab mayors, who contacted me and said they understand the meaning of my leaving the coalition, I agreed to meet with Minister Lapid and came with them … I will support the coalition. But I also want the coalition to be true and attentive to Arab society and its needs in health, education, housing, and infrastructure.”
- Minister Frej said, “There was a good atmosphere at the meeting, where it was clear that maintaining the integrity of the government and the coalition is the supreme interest of the Israeli public in general, and the Arab public in particular.”
- Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam was quoted saying, “We could not just stand by without meeting with her and returning her to the government. We will not allow anyone to break up the government. We met with her for days until we convinced her.”
Context: Foreign Minister Lapid has positioned himself as the central figure maintaining the stability of this government.
- It is also in his supreme interest that the government doesn’t, if he is to realise his ambition of becoming prime minister. Were the coalition to collapse as a result of another right-wing defection, then Lapid automatically become acting prime minister. If the government falls as a result of the Left, Bennett remains in position.
- The government and opposition are once again tied 60-60. This leaves the coalition once again susceptible to threats and demands from any other single MK.
- According to sources in the meeting, Rinawie Zoabi did not even mention the issues cited in her resignation letter last week; Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, the settlements, the occupation or the Negev.
- Instead, there was a commitment to streamline the bureaucratic process to release funds already allocated to Arab communities.
- Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Bennett said: “Despite all the ups and downs, and there have been many, our government took the country from mass unemployment and a record deficit, riots in the streets of Israel, and thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip, and brought it to strong growth and determined handling of the security situation, at home and abroad. I think that if the MKs on the left feel that the government is too right-wing, and the MKs on the right feel that the government is too left-wing, it’s a sign that the government is in a good place in the middle. A good executive government, that puts aside ideological arguments, and just takes care of the citizens. That’s the meaning of compromise. This is a good government for Israel, and we’re not giving up.”
- The harshest criticism of Rinawie Zoabi came from within her own party, particularly as she was not elected in the party primary but instead received a reserved slot.
- This is also reflected in the latest polling, whereby Meretz fails to make it above the electoral threshold. In a poll by Panels Politics, released yesterday, the Likud receives 36 seats, Yesh Atid 18, the Religious Zionist Party 9, Shas 8, Blue and White 8, United Torah Judaism 7, Joint List 7, Yamina 6, Yisrael Beiteinu 5, New Hope 4 the United Arab List (UAL) 4 seats. According to the current blocs: The right wing opposition have 60 seats, the current coalition parties 53, with the Joint List on 7.
Looking ahead: The coalition still face another challenge in the Knesset later today when they bring their bill on scholarships for discharged IDF soldiers to a vote. It remains to be seen if Likud MKs will support the bill that they have previously endorsed or prefer to vote it down out of political considerations.
- As a result of Zoabi’s reversal, the opposition will not introduce bills on Wednesday to dissolve the Knesset. If they were to fail, they would be unable to re-table them again for six months.
- Also later this week the Knesset is expected to approve allocating NIS 1 billion (£238m) to reduce disparities in Arab society. The funds were one of the conditions of the UAL returning to the coalition two weeks ago.