Bennett vows ‘we won’t give up,’ after losing Knesset majority

PM cites discontent on coalition’s left and right flanks as sign it is striking good balance, predicts ‘government will be successful in all crises’ if narrow interests put aside

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (2nd-R) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (2nd-L) attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 22, 2022. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (2nd-R) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (2nd-L) attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 22, 2022. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday vowed to persevere after a lawmaker’s resignation from the coalition left the government a with minority in the Knesset and fighting for survival.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi’s announced her departure Thursday, weeks after a rebel Knesset member from Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party defected to the opposition. Despite resigning from the coalition, Rinawie Zoabi has not specified whether she will actively oppose the government and reports have pointed to progress on reconciling her with the coalition.

Opening the weekly cabinet meeting, Bennett noted “the upheavals” facing the coalition but insisted as that members of both its right and left flanks are disgruntled, the government is probably striking the right note.

“It’s a likely sign the government is good in the middle… This is the meaning of compromise,” he said.

“This is a good government for Israel and we won’t give up,” Bennett added.

The premier argued the government has prioritized action over ideological disputes and said coalition members must focus on what’s good for the country and not a “narrow sectoral interest.”

“We all need to understand that nobody will be 100 percent content. This is group work, not individual,” he said. “I’m sure that if we all continue to display good will, the government will be successful in all crises.”

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi addresses a Knesset committee. (Danny Shem Tov/Knesset Spokesperson)

Bennett’s comments came ahead of a possible vote Wednesday on an opposition bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections. Rinawie Zoabi has not specified how she will vote on the bill and kept the door open to cooperating with the coalition, as “the alternative to the existing government is much worse.”

While her resignation leaves the coalition with just 59 MKs, and a preliminary reading of a bill to disperse the Knesset for new elections needs only a simple majority, the subsequent three readings of such a bill would need an absolute majority of at least 61 MKs, and it is not clear that the opposition could muster those votes.

In his remarks Sunday, Bennett also hit out at opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party for vowing to oppose a bill to fund tuition of recently released combat soldiers. The proposal is slated to be voted on Monday, though the coalition lacks the votes to approve the measure on its own.

“If the Likud Knesset members vote against, the law will fall and the soldiers won’t get scholarships. Many of them will not be able to afford studies at all while others, who already began their studies relying on this money, will simply be stuck without a solution,” he said.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

He called on Likud MKs and other opposition members to either back the law or stay away from the plenum during the vote, allowing the bill to pass.

“The vote on this bill has no impact on the coalition or government. It only harms soldiers,” the prime minister said.

On Thursday, Likud said it will only back the bill if it amended to cover 100 percent of discharged troops’ tuition, rather than the proposed two-thirds, after a group of party members initially expressed support for the legislation.

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