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Progress said made to return Meretz MK to coalition, or have her not vote against it

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi promises: ‘We’ll find a solution to the crisis’; ahead of Sunday meeting with her, party chief Nitzan Horowitz insists situation won’t cause fall of government

Health Minister and chief of the left-wing Meretz party Nitzan Horowitz (left) at the Knesset, on May 16, 2022; Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (right) arrives for an interview at Channel 12 news, in Neve Ilan, on May 19, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health Minister and chief of the left-wing Meretz party Nitzan Horowitz (left) at the Knesset, on May 16, 2022; Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (right) arrives for an interview at Channel 12 news, in Neve Ilan, on May 19, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Significant progress has been made in talks between the coalition and rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi after she pulled her support for the government this week, according to Hebrew media reports Saturday.

A coalition source involved in the talks was quoted predicting the matter would be resolved in the coming days.

Rinawie Zoabi is to meet Sunday with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to discuss terms for her continued support of the coalition, either from within or without.

According to a report in the Haaretz daily, Rinawie Zoabi is expected to rejoin the coalition and not quit the Knesset. The newspaper said she was promised during talks over the weekend that funds will be transferred to build new hospital wings in Nazareth, where she hails from.

“She wants credit for a few issues so we will give it to her, as well as attention, and thus the crisis will be behind us,” the source said.

Later Saturday, a small group of protesters gathered outside the Arab Israeli lawmaker’s home over her decision to quit the coalition.

“I know how much our democracy and the future of the entire country are important to us. I know you understand my personal difficulty,” she told demonstrators and reporters outside her home in Nof Hagalil while handing out chocolates.

“I promise we’ll find a solution to the crisis that exists today,” she added.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi speaks to protesters and reporters outside her home in Nof Hagalil on May 21, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Meanwhile, Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz said he would meet with Zoabi on Sunday. He said his left-wing party was “completely committed” to the government and vowed it won’t be responsible for the government’s fall.

“That’s not on the table,” he told Channel 12 news.

Horowitz, who is health minister, defended being caught off guard by her resignation. “We were all surprised by this,” he said.

He was asked about talks on bringing Rinawie Zoabi back to the coalition or having her support the government from outside it. “The contacts are in a positive direction,” Horowitz responded, adding that the “most important thing” for Meretz is the government’s survival.

Horowitz also said he believes Rinawie Zoabi won’t vote for a bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections. “She understands that… the alternative [to the government] is much worse,” he said.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi addresses the Knesset plenum. (Danny Shem Tov/Knesset Spokesperson)

Rinawie Zoabi’s Meretz colleague, Minister for Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej, said she should resign from the Knesset if she is not prepared to follow the party’s agenda, rather than quitting the coalition but remaining in parliament as she has done.

Rinawie Zoabi said Friday she has not yet decided how she would vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset; the opposition Joint List has said it will introduce such a bill on Wednesday to disband parliament and call what would be Israel’s fifth elections in barely three years. She also said she may still cooperate with the ruling bloc, as “the alternative to the existing government is much worse.”

“Of course, I do not want to see [Benjamin] Netanyahu return,” she said in an interview with the Haaretz daily, referencing the former prime minister and current opposition chairman.

While her resignation leaves the coalition with just 59 MKs, and a preliminary reading of a bill to disperse the Knesset for new elections needs only a simple majority, it would need an absolute majority of at least 61 MKs to clear its subsequent three readings, and it is not clear that the opposition could muster those 61 votes.

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