Ex-Meretz MK who voted against her own coalition takes job with current gov’t – reports

Calls made for police bribery probe of Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who helped expedite the demise of Bennett-Lapid coalition, over reports she has taken a position in Interior Ministry

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Former Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (right) tours the The Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth with Health Minister Moshe Arbel of the Shas party, July 4, 2023. (Social media screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Former Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (right) tours the The Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth with Health Minister Moshe Arbel of the Shas party, July 4, 2023. (Social media screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Former Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, whose refusal to vote with the Bennett-Lapid coalition, of which she was a member, helped topple that government last year, has reportedly taken a job advising the Interior Ministry on regional affairs.

The position is run out of a local municipal authority guidance center in the Maale Adumim West Bank settlement, although the Interior Ministry, which runs 11 such guidance centers around the country, has denied it is employing Zoabi in any capacity.

The former MK has thus far refused to comment on the reports that she has taken the position.

Several opposition MKs denounced Zoabi following a Monday report on the matter by Channel 12 news, and prominent opposition political figures called on police to investigate her on suspicion of taking bribes for what they alleged was her collaboration with the then-opposition to topple the government in return for a job.

The Interior Ministry is currently headed by Interior Minister Moshe Arbel of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. Arbel, who also runs the Health Ministry, was photographed in July with Zoabi during a tour of a hospital in Nazareth, which she said the minister invited her to. Zoabi posted the photograph on her Facebook page.

According to the Channel 12 report, Zoabi was recently appointed as regional affairs adviser to the Interior Ministry, working out of the Maale Adumim “Mifaam” which, along with the 10 other such institutions around the country, provides organizational development and strategic advice to local municipal authorities.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi in the Knesset plenum on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Haaretz reported on Monday night that an anonymous source “connected to Zoabi’s appointment” had confirmed she was indeed working for the Interior Ministry.

Arbel’s office told The Times of Israel, however, that Zoabi is not employed in any way by the Interior Ministry, and does not work for the ministry as an outside consultant.

Zoabi was a persistent thorn in the side of the Bennett-Lapid government, and voted against the coalition on key legislation, including a bill to encourage ultra-Orthodox men to enlist to the IDF and against the extension of temporary legislation applying Israeli criminal and some civil law to Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Back in 2022, before the fall of the Bennett-Lapid government, the Walla news site reported that Zoabi had been in close contact with Arbel’s party colleague MK Yinon Azoulai and that the latter had informed Shas leader Aryeh Deri that Zoabi was going to vote against the West Bank measure before the vote itself took place.

Because of her persistent opposition to her own coalition, she was designated by then-foreign minister Yair Lapid to serve as Israel’s consul general to Shanghai in order to get her out of the Knesset and allow for a more amenable Meretz MK to take her seat.

Ultimately, she turned away from the post and remained in the Knesset. When she and MK Mazen Ghanaim of the Ra’am party voted against the West Bank law, with another four coalition MKs not present for the vote, it spelled the death knell for the Bennett-Lapid government, which collapsed just two weeks later.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi attends a vote on a West Bank bill at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I wonder what the former Knesset member from the Arab community, who helped overthrow a good government in exchange for a job, and brought upon her society a disaster of almost 200 murdered in nine months, must feel,” Yesh Atid MK Vladimir Beliak wrote Monday night on X, formerly Twitter, referencing the severe spike in crime in Arab communities during the current government’s tenure.

Meretz secretary general and deputy Histadrut chairman Tomer Reznik said a criminal investigation should be opened into Zoabi’s actions.

“Either way, she will be convicted by history for the severe damage she has done out of illegitimate and personal considerations, for which there can be no forgiveness or atonement,” wrote Reznik on X.

Former Labor party Knesset candidate and social activist Yaya Fink said he had personally filed a complaint to the police against Zoabi on suspicion of bribery.

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