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Lapid warns rebel MKs ‘will pay a price’ as polls show Netanyahu strength

Latest surveys have former PM’s current opposition bloc at 60 seats; Yamina’s Orbach said to give Bennett ultimatum to solve voting problems with Meretz, Ra’am within a week

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 15, 2022 (Courtesy Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 15, 2022 (Courtesy Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a message to the coalition’s various rebellious lawmakers, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned on Friday that “anyone endangering this government from within should know they’ll pay a price.”

In a post to his Facebook account, Lapid added: “I offer you a better deal: to fight for this government, to hold on to it. To decide you’re on a winning team, not a team that loses to itself.”

As the riven coalition continues to teeter on the edge of the political abyss, Lapid said, “If this government falls, the lesson will be that the politics that work are those of venom and incitement. I refuse to accept that.”

After losing its Knesset majority in April, the government has limped from one crisis to the next, and this week failed to pass a key vote on legislation renewing the application of Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank, with several Arab members of the coalition refusing to support the bill.

The latest threat to the coalition is now thought to be Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who was at the center of speculation on Thursday as the latest potential defector in the government.

The Yamina MK has publicly denied persistent reports that he is negotiating with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to potentially join Likud and form an alternate government. But sources close to Orbach have told Hebrew-language media that he is exploring such a possibility.

Channel 12 reported on Friday that Orbach has given Bennett an ultimatum to solve his problems with renegade MKs in Meretz and Ra’am within a week, or he could support a vote of no confidence in the government.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The right-wing MK has been pegged as a flight risk in recent months since the defection of fellow Yamina lawmaker Idit Silman, and has issued ultimatums for his continued support of the government.

One of the newest coalition rebels is Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. Her party has increasingly pressed her to resign from the Knesset after she said she was unable to back bills such as the one renewing the West Bank legal measure.

According to Channel 12, Rinawie Zoabi had entertained the possibility in recent days, but has now become angry at her treatment by coalition leaders and is vowing not to quit.

MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi at a plenum session at the Knesset on June 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two polls on Friday showed opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition bloc reaching 60 seats in the 12-seat Knesset if elections were held today.

A Maariv survey had Likud at 34 seats; Yesh Atid 21; Religious Zionism 11; Shas 8; Blue and White 8; Joint List 7; United Torah Judaism 7; Labor 6; Yamina 5; Yisrael Beytenu 5; New Hope 4; and Ra’am 4. Meretz did not pass the electoral threshold.

A second poll on Channel 13 had Likud at 36; Yesh Atid 20; Religious Zionism 9; Shas 8; Blue and White 8; Joint List 7; United Torah Judaism 7; Labor 6; Yamina 6; Yisrael Beytenu 5; New Hope 4; and Meretz 4. In this poll, Ra’am did not pass the electoral threshold.

Monday’s failed vote on the West Bank law bill was seen by many, including Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who spearheaded it, as a test of how long the coalition could push on.

Along with Rinawie Zoabi, MK Mazen Ghanaim of the coalition’s Islamist Ra’am party voted against the measure. Ra’am’s three other MKs and rebel Yamina MK Silman were absent from the plenum, helping sink the bill in a 52-58 vote.

The coalition has since been pressuring Ghanaim and Rinawie Zoabi to quit, as it hopes to replace them with other MKs from Meretz and Ra’am who would be more likely to back the so-called West Bank bill in another vote.

The coalition can put up the bill for a vote every week before it expires at the end of June. If the government is dissolved before then, the bill will be automatically extended until a new coalition can vote on it.

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