‘Can’t work like this’: Right-wing coalition MKs object to Joint List cooperation

In response, party chiefs said to explain that there’s no alternative now government has lost its Knesset majority; Lapid doesn’t rule out working with Joint List to pass budget

MK Ayman Odeh (left), head of the Joint List, and MK Ahmad Tibi attend a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Ayman Odeh (left), head of the Joint List, and MK Ahmad Tibi attend a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several lawmakers and ministers from the right-wing New Hope and Yamina parties have expressed objections to their embattled coalition cooperating with the opposition Joint List party in order to pass legislation in Knesset, the Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday.

At a meeting this week of coalition faction leaders in the Knesset, Yamina MK Nir Orbach expressed his dissatisfaction with cooperating with the majority-Arab party, saying he found it unacceptable.

“How does it look like that now whenever we want something to pass, we need to sit down with Joint List? It cannot work like this,” Orbach said, according to Kan.

The faction leaders reportedly told him in response that “there was nothing” the coalition could do about it.

“We need to swallow this and that’s it,” an unnamed faction leader reportedly said.

In addition to Orbach, the report said there were other ministers and lawmakers in Yamina and New Hope who have made it clear in talks that they will not agree to remain silent for long if relying on the Joint List becomes a regular feature, and warned that such a practice could dismantle the coalition.

That dissatisfaction bubbled over on Thursday after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that the coalition could cooperate with Joint List on legislation, implying that it may also rely on the party to pass the state budget next year — when an absolute majority made up of at least 61 MKs is required.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during his Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset on May 9, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“What is happening today is that like all previous Israeli governments, we are working with all the parties,” he told Channel 12 news in an interview broadcast Wednesday.

Following Lapid’s interview, several right-wing lawmakers in the coalition, chief among them some from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, reportedly insisted that there would be no such cooperation.

“Such a statement is unacceptable, I oppose it — and it’s a shame it was even said,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said, according to Channel 12 news.

Fellow Yamina MK Abir Kara reportedly said that as far as he is concerned, the “Joint List does not exist.” Neither lawmaker made a comment publicly.

Nir Orbach (L) Ayelet Shaked (C) and Abir Kara (R) (Flash90)

The comments came after the Joint List helped to derail two no-confidence motions against the government on Monday, with some of its members voting against and others being absent from the plenum or abstaining.

The embattled coalition was reduced to a 60-60 seat parity with the opposition after Yamina MK Idit Silman defected in early April, putting the government in peril. Still, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party pulled a bill to dissolve the Knesset on Wednesday after the Islamist Ra’am party announced the faction would return to the coalition, after several weeks of freezing its participation, thus keeping the government alive for now.

“We’ve come to a conclusion that Ra’am, with the Shura Council and the Islamic Movement, will give a chance to coming back and fulfilling our obligations to the coalition agreement,” Abbas said.

Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas delivers a statement to the press at the Knesset, May 11, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Kan said that Bennett refused to answer a question on what Ra’am’s demands were for returning to the coalition’s fold, saying that “we are a government of doing and of goodwill and are moving away from the things that do not contribute.”

Ra’am has been polling poorly in the last week, not reaching the minimum threshold to enter Knesset. However, the larger issue it faces is internal division within the party, exacerbated by several weeks of heightened tensions on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

In line with a decision from its Shura Council, Ra’am announced a “freeze” in its coalition membership three weeks ago over dissatisfaction with Israel’s handling of clashes between police and Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount.

Israeli police officers are seen during clashes outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif, or the Al-Aqsa complex, to Muslims, Jerusalem’s most holy hilltop was a crucible for violence in the weeks leading up to and during Ramadan, which coincided this year with Passover and Easter.

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