‘Is there an alternative?’: MK Rozin says Meretz has no option on settlement bill

Left-wing lawmaker says if legislation doesn’t pass and government falls, ‘the right will pass it within a week’; stresses backing for two-state solution

MK Michal Rozin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Michal Rozin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Explaining the decision of the left-wing party Meretz to support a bill to renew the extension of civil and criminal law to Israelis living in the West Bank, in apparent contradiction with the party’s political platform, Meretz MK Michal Rozin suggested Saturday the alternative of not supporting the bill would be worst for Israel’s left.

“If the bill collapses and the government is dissolved, we’ll suffer the outcome and be banished, because the right will pass the bill within a week,” Rozin said Saturday during a cultural event in Tel Aviv.

“Do we have an alternative? If I knew that dissolving this government would lead to a center-left government, I would do it right now,” she said.

The bill seeks to renew an emergency measure extending Israeli criminal law and certain key civil laws — such as income tax and health insurance — to Israelis living in the West Bank. Though Israel has not annexed 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 arrangements to Palestinians.

Originally enacted in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the law remains an “emergency measure” that must be renewed every five years. Last passed in 2017, it is set to expire at the end of June.

Rozin has previously said the left-wing party’s potential support for the bill would be based on coalition agreements to not make any major changes in the status quo regarding the Palestinians, a key component of the pact holding the disparate government together.

The West Bank settlement of Efrat, January 10, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar who is spearheading the bill has warned that being able to reach the required majority to pass it would be a test for the survivability of the diverse and fragile coalition.

Rozin stressed Saturday that her party would continue to support a two-state solution with the Palestinians, a position the party has held since its foundation.

“Meretz has always been clear about having only two options in this regard: annexing millions of Palestinians and losing the Zionist vision or separating from the Palestinians and exercising the two-state solution,” she said.

Earlier this month, Rozin said she would try to find a way to cooperate with the party’s MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who briefly quit the coalition, and convince her to work with them.

“Even if there are reasons to dismantle the government, none of them are better than the terrible alternative. I believe that this government has challenges that can be overcome. The broad interest is to do everything possible to prevent further elections and to block the return of the extreme right to the corridors of power,” Rozin said at the time.

But despite the support from Meretz, and even if Zoabi does fall in line with her party, it seems like the coalition will still have a hard time reaching the majority it needs, after Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party, reportedly told other coalition leaders on Friday that one of his party members will not vote for the legislation in the coming days.

“I don’t see how I can get Mazen Ghanaim to vote in support of the legislation,” Abbas said.

Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas attends a discussion on violence in the Arab community on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Arab majority Joint List party, which is in the opposition but not aligned with the right-religious bloc, has also said it will oppose the legislation after reports in Hebrew media suggested that the coalition was negotiating with the party to try and gain its support for the bill.

The latest coalition crisis comes as the government struggles to survive amid the specter of new elections and a threat from opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu looms larger.

Recent reports claimed Sa’ar has held talks with Netanyahu’s Likud party aimed at forming an alternative government in the Knesset. Sa’ar has repeatedly denied the talks.

According to a poll released last week, the opposition led by Netanyahu is gaining ground with voters, and inching closer to being able to win a majority in the Knesset.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released an unusual open letter to the Israeli public on Friday, one year after his coalition formed, appealing for support to keep the teetering coalition on its feet for the sake of political stability and a properly functioning government. Much of Bennett’s message criticized Netanyahu and his allies and warned against their return to power.

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