The Arab-majority Joint List party mocked the rival Islamist Ra’am party on Sunday, after Ra’am said it was freezing its membership in the Knesset and coalition for two weeks, while the parliament is in recess.
Ra’am made the announcement amid mounting pressure on the government in the wake of clashes between Palestinians and police on the Temple Mount. The move is reportedly meant to ease the pressure on the party, as well as prevent a permanent break with the government.
The decision is largely declarative, because the Knesset is in recess and inactive. Ra’am coordinated the temporary freeze with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Ra’am denounced Israeli security forces over the violence at the Jerusalem holy site, and one of the Islamist party’s lawmakers threatened to quit the coalition. Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas, however, has downplayed such a prospect and issued repeated calls for calm.
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, which is in the opposition, mocked Ra’am on Sunday for announcing the freeze.
“Not coming to the Knesset during recess. A dramatic decision,” Odeh said sarcastically on Twitter.
The Joint List’s Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the Arab coalition, said, “Ra’am’s announcement of freezing their membership in the coalition during the Knesset’s recess is like announcing a diet during Ramadan.”
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started two weeks ago, worshipers fast between sunrise and sunset.
Joint List party member Ahmad Tibi said, “They may be coalition members, but they have a sense of humor. A recess sense of humor.”
Some opposition right-wing lawmakers lashed out at the governing coalition following Ra’am’s announcement.
Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Religious Zionism faction said, “Is there anyone sane on the right and in general who thinks that it’s possible to establish a government that relies on terror supporters in the Islamic Movement?”
Yoav Gallant of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran were “watching the total surrender of the Bennett-Lapid government to Abbas in the Negev and on the Temple Mount and learning what to do.”
“This government’s weakness will cost us dearly,” Gallant said.
Likud’s Miki Zohar, a loud-mouthed Netanyahu loyalist, said, “The Islamic Movement controls Israel. It’s sad, but mostly worrying, that this is our government.”
Israel Katz, a Likud member and former finance minister, said, “The Islamic Movement shut down police activity on Temple Mount and threatens to take apart the government. Bennet and Lapid leaning on Ra’am harms Israel’s security.”
The current government was already on the brink of collapse in recent days after MK Idit Silman, a member of Bennett’s Yamina party, quit the coalition, causing it to lose its razor-thin majority. The 120-member Knesset is now deadlocked, with both the coalition and opposition holding 60 seats apiece.
Ra’am split with the Joint List last year during coalition negotiations, as Ra’am sought to join the government and wield more policy influence, and the Joint List elected to remain in the opposition.
The two parties have feuded since, including during the recent government crisis.
Ra’am is the first independent Arab Israeli party to ever join a governing coalition.