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After helping sink key bill, rebel Meretz MK reportedly vows to do it again

Meanwhile, Ra’am chief says if coalition crisis continues, he will back new elections; settler leader slams opposition for voting against bill renewing Israeli law for settlers

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi seen after a meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid outside the Foreign Ministry offices in Jerusalem, May 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi seen after a meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid outside the Foreign Ministry offices in Jerusalem, May 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who voted earlier this week against a critical measure to renew the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis living in the West Bank, told her associates that she’ll downvote such a measure again if it is brought to the Knesset plenum next week, Wednesday reports said.

The bill failed in a dramatic vote late Monday evening after Rinawie Zoabi and Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim voted against it, and Ra’am’s other lawmakers and rebel Yamina MK Idit Silman were absent from the plenum. The bill’s failure endangered the chances of passing the measure before a June 30 deadline and further imperiled the teetering coalition.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who spearheaded the bill and said it was crucial for the coalition’s survival, has said he intends to bring the legislation up for another vote.

Since the vote, Rinawie Zoabi and Ghanaim have faced intense pressure to resign, as the coalition struggles to stay afloat and regain its ability to pass legislation.

Rinawie Zoabi has told to associates she will vote against the bill again, however, according to Wednesday reports from Channel 12 and Haaretz.

Rinawie Zoabi also said Wednesday that she had agreed with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to stay in the coalition in return for her not supporting “laws that go against my conscience and harm Arab society and the Palestinian issue.”

Sources close to Lapid, who oversaw efforts to get Rinawie Zoabi back to the coalition, denied to Channel 12 that such an agreement was made, adding that the top diplomat “did not and will not agree for every lawmaker within the coalition to do as they please.”

Lapid on Tuesday called for the coalition renegades to resign.

“Those who can’t live with this coalition should leave. Those who can should commit to it. You can’t play both sides,” he said.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on May 22, 2022. (Oz Avital)

The defeated bill, enacted every five years since 1967, would renew a measure extending Israeli criminal law and certain key civil laws — such as income tax and health insurance — to Israelis living in the West Bank. The measure ensures that settlers living there are treated as though they live in Israel in most matters, without extending those same legal protections to Palestinians.

David Elhayani, the head of the Yesha Council settlement group, on Wednesday slammed right-wing parties in the opposition for voting against the bill. The right-wing and religious opposition bloc led by the Likud party agrees with the bill in principle, but has vowed to vote against the government on all matters to bring about its downfall.

Elhayani, who last week along with several other settler leaders urged the opposition to vote for the bill, accused Likud and the Religious Zionism faction of “hurting the settlers” by following Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu in his efforts to topple the government.

“They are hurting the settlement movement all for the sake of Netanyahu’s political interests,” Elhayani said. “Likud and Religious Zionism lawmakers are spitting in the face of their voters — the settlers in the West Bank.”

Speaking with Army Radio Wednesday, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas said that he would not ask his party member Ghanaim to resign from Knesset over his opposition to the measure.

“I discussed with him what is good for Arab society and he will decide how he will continue forward with us,” Abbas said.

Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas (L) speaks with his party MK Mazen Ghanaim (R) during a Knesset discussion on a bill to renew the application of some Israeli law to settlers, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Abbas also told Army Radio that if disagreements persist within the coalition and it remains unable to pass legislation, he will support calling for an election.

“If we come to the conclusion that it is not possible to maintain the coalition under these conditions, I will propose to the leaders of the coalition parties to go to proactive elections,” he said.

Monday also saw the coalition lose another key vote to reinstate Yamina MK Matan Kahana as religious affairs minister, with Silman actively voting against the coalition and torpedoing the attempt.

It was the first time Silman cast a key vote against the coalition since she defected to the opposition in early April.

Commenting on both failed votes, the Yamina party director-general, Stella Weinstein, on Wednesday lashed out at Silman and Rinawie Zoabi, calling for both of them to resign.

MK Idit Silman chairs a Knesset Health Committee on May 10, 2022. (Flash90)

“Silman and Rinawie Zoabi are holding their mandate hostage, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a political mistake for them to stay [in Knesset],” she said in an interview with Ynet.

“I hope the party leaders will learn from this. Any politician who uses his mandate to blackmail the coalition — should just not be there,” she said.

The fragile coalition has lurched from one crisis to another since Silman’s resignation in April stripped it of its parliamentary majority, reducing it to a 60-60 deadlock in the 120-seat Knesset.

On Wednesday, the coalition suffered another defeat when Ra’am broke ranks to support legislation from the opposition’s Arab-majority Joint List to raise the minimum wage, allowing the bill to pass.

The coalition appeared to be on its last legs just a year after taking power, with polls predicting that a bloc led by Netanyahu was close to winning a parliamentary majority if elections were held today.

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