Ideology aside: Right-wing opposition leaders vow to defeat all coalition bills

‘We won’t help them, they need to go,’ Netanyahu says; lacking support, coalition pulls bill to renew the application of criminal and some civil law to Israelis in West Bank

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his Likud party's weekly Knesset faction meeting, May 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his Likud party's weekly Knesset faction meeting, May 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Leaders of the opposition’s right-religious parties said Monday that they will not support any upcoming coalition legislation, reaffirming their commitment to topple the ailing government.

The assembled heads of the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Religious Zionism parties — who call themselves the “national camp” — said that their goal is to form an alternative government headed by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from within the existing Knesset, and if not, to press for elections.

The opposition leaders — sans the majority-Arab Joint List party — accused the current government of relying on “terror supporters” in the Islamist Ra’am party, being bad for Judaism and the economy, and being unable to handle the “existential threat” posed by a nuclear Iran.

“We won’t help them, they need to go,” said Netanyahu, saying the coalition was a sinking ship. “We won’t fall into the trap that each time we’ll save them.”

Of the current government’s difficulty in passing bills, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich similarly said that all outside support would end.

“We won’t be its crutches,” he said.

Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks during a rally against the government in Tel Aviv, November 2, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Shas leader Aryeh Deri clearly stated the parties’ position, declaring: “It’s prohibited to support this government in any law.”

Although he left Knesset as part of a plea deal earlier this year, Deri continues to run the religious Sephardi party.

Deri added that the national camp wants to reshuffle seats within the current Knesset to form an alternative government headed by Netanyahu.

“That’s our goal, that’s where we’re heading,” he said.

The statement was well-timed, as shortly thereafter, the coalition pulled its Monday bid to bring to vote a bill required to renew the application of criminal and some civil law to Israelis in the West Bank for another five years — a measure ideologically supported by all of the national camp heads.

“Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar agreed to the request of the alternate Prime Minister [Yair Lapid] and Prime Minister [Naftali Bennett] to postpone for a week the vote on the bill to extend the validity of emergency regulations (Judea and Samaria – Judgment of Offenses and Legal Aid), in order to maximize efforts to pass this vital law,” read a statement from Sa’ar’s office, three hours after the national camp’s announcement.

Since losing its majority in early April and weathering several temporary defections in the ensuing two months, the coalition has struggled to gain a Knesset majority to pass its legislative agenda. This has become especially complicated with laws relating to security, which Ra’am has found it politically difficult to support.

Earlier on Monday, the coalition’s latest rebel — Blue and White MK Michael Biton — ended his strike and pledged to return to voting with the coalition, which sits at a 60-60 seat parity with the opposition.

Blue and White MK Michael Biton chairs a meeting of the Knesset Economic Committee on May 25, 2022. (Knesset Spokesperson/Noam Moskowitz

Lacking a majority, the coalition has sought to rely on opposition support, often given in the form of vote abstention.

Only last week, the Netanyahu-led Likud came to a compromise with the coalition in order to pass a broadly popular bill to fund scholarships for recent army veterans. Although Likud ideologically supported the measure, its leadership initially decided to kill the measure, causing a mini-rebellion within the party. Ultimately, however, a solution was found: A Likud suggestion to raise the funding level was added to the bill, which then passed via the abstention of the right-religious bloc.

Earlier this year, right-religious opposition parties lent their support to a coalition-sponsored bill to renew a ban on most Palestinians who marry Israelis from obtaining permanent residency, dubbed the “Citizenship Law.”

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