Israel’s political crisis is resolved, but the government remains a tension
JERUSALEM – The latest crisis in the Israeli government was resolved on Sunday, at least temporarily, when a lawmaker who leave the coalition at the end of last week he agreed to come back to it, taking back the small majority his opposition held over the weekend.
The coalition, an ideologically diverse alliance of eight parties with conflicting agendas, is now back in control of 60 seats in the 120-seat parliament, a position that allows it to retain power but makes governance difficult.
Many Israelis believe that the days of this government – barely a year and inherently unstable – remain numbered, despite Sunday’s resolution of the crisis, and expect Israel to return to the polls within months for its fifth election in less than four. years.
The past few weeks have been particularly tumultuous for the government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose unusual coalition is made up of parties of the right, left and center and includes, for the first time, a small Islamist party. Those partners mostly met a shared desire to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to unblock a political stalemate that had forced Israel into four consecutive elections.
The lawmaker at the center of the latest hiatus, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a member of the Palestinian Israeli minority of the left-wing Meretz party, resigned on Thursday, saying the government has not committed to improving conditions for Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of the population of the country. He also pointed to the recent of Israel interventions at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a police assault on mourners at the funeral of a Palestinian journalist.
On Sunday, after days of intense meetings and appeals from politicians begging her to resume her participation and obligations to her party and coalition, Ms. Rinawie Zoabi said in a statement that she had reversed her decision “under the massive pressure of the leaders of the local Arab councils, who turned to me and understood the meaning of my resignation ”.
He said he did this to help his people and to avoid the possibility that the alternative to the Bennett government would be one in which a far-right politician, Itamar Ben-Gvir, would be the next minister to oversee the police force.
His return to the coalition probably avoided a vote that was scheduled for Wednesday to dissolve parliament, as the opposition is now unlikely to reach a majority.
Mr. Netanyahu continued to weaken the government on Sunday after Ms. Rinawie Zoabi’s overthrow, denouncing him as “addicted to Israel haters and supporters of terrorism,” referring to its Arab members. Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, leads the opposition and he is determined to returneven while he was on trial on corruption charges.
The turmoil of the past few weeks has been bad even by Israeli standards and a far cry from Mr. Bennett’s promise to end years of political chaos and impasse.
Last month, another coalition member resigned, saying the government leadership did not reflect the values of the right-wing voters who brought their party to power. The legislator, Idit Silman, from Mr. Bennett’s Yamina partyhe said it was time to try to form a new “national, Jewish, Zionist” coalition with right-wing lawmakers.
Less than two weeks ago, the small Islamist party Raam agreed to rejoin the coalition a month after he suspended his involvement in the protest against police actions at the Aqsa mosque.
Israeli commentators have called it the season of political extortion, with the government in the balance at risk of collapse with any resignation or suspension and with the opposition intent on luring another defector to cross the line.
Many do not expect the government to last beyond next March, if it goes that far. If the government fails to gather a 61-vote majority to approve a budget by that month’s legal deadline, parliament will automatically pass, sending Israelis back to the polls next summer.