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Meeting with coalition chiefs amid crisis, Bennett vows government won’t fall

Islamist Ra’am party skips meeting; party leaders nominate Yesh Atid MK Toporovsky as temporary coalition whip, discuss upcoming legislation, including state budget

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, in Jerusalem on May 8, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, in Jerusalem on May 8, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met on Sunday with the heads of coalition parties in preparation for the Knesset’s upcoming summer session, as the government continues to teeter on the brink of collapse, having lost its parliamentary majority.

The Knesset returns on Monday, and opposition parties may try to move as soon as Wednesday to bring down the eight-party coalition, though it is not clear they have the votes to do so.

During Sunday’s meeting, the party chiefs agreed “to work together in order to maintain the government and the coalition for the good of Israel’s citizens,” a statement read.

They also discussed a number of planned bills for the coming Knesset seat, including measures to reduce the cost of living, the state budget, and efforts to continue fighting crime in Arab communities.

Absent from the gathering was the Islamist Ra’am party, which froze its coalition participation during last month’s unrest and riots at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

While party head Mansour Abbas was abroad and did not attend the meeting, he wrote on Facebook on Saturday that his party would determine its position on the Mount based on the positions of Jordanian King Abdullah II, whom he said was the rightful custodian of the holy site.

Known as Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa complex to Muslims, the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest. Tensions at the site have reverberated into terror attacks, pressure from Israel’s allies, threats from Hamas, and the exacerbation of the ongoing coalition crisis.

Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas attends the INSS conference in Tel Aviv on April 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ FLASH90)

The coalition, which took office last June, currently only has 60 seats in parliament — exactly half of the Knesset total of 120. If Ra’am pulls out its four seats, the government will find itself in a minority.

In an interview published Friday, Abbas said his party will not bring down the government and that he was working with Jordan to resolve tensions at the Temple Mount.

Also during Sunday’s meeting, party leaders agreed that Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky would serve as interim coalition whip, after the former holder of the role — Yamina lawmaker Idit Silman — defected to the opposition.

The coalition has found itself on life support after Silman deprived the government of its narrow majority in the Knesset.

MK Boaz Toporovsky speaks during a Knesset plenum session, May 20, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Despite the government’s lack of a majority, there is no clear constellation of lawmakers that could replace the coalition, which could limp on until new elections are called.

Bennett addressed the stability of the coalition at the meeting, warning of the consequences of dissolving the government.

“The government must continue to function so that businesses affected by the Omicron wave will be compensated, so that this year’s Lag BaOmer festivities at Mt. Meron will take place safely and not end again in an avoidable tragedy,” the prime minister said.

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