Ra’am shakeup may pave way for rebellious MK Ghanaim to leave Knesset

Alaa al-Din Jabareen, next in line for Knesset seat, steps aside, putting an Abbas loyalist on Knesset threshold instead; Ra’am MK denies party seeking Ghanaim’s resignation

MK Mazen Ghanaim on the Knesset floor, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Mazen Ghanaim on the Knesset floor, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A politician on the Ra’am party’s candidate slate announced his resignation on Sunday, potentially clearing a path for the Islamist party to replace rebellious lawmaker Mazen Ghanaim and, in doing so, shore up the flailing coalition.

Alaa al-Din Jabareen, currently the next in line on Ra’am’s party slate, submitted his resignation on Sunday morning. His position will be filled by deputy Rahat mayor Ataa Abu Mudaygham.

Without elaborating further, Jabareen said that he “did not wish to enter the Knesset at this stage.” He said he had arrived at the decision to resign after consulting with family and his fellow Islamic Movement members.

“I ask God Almighty to grant success to my comrades in the Islamic Movement. I wish Ra’am well and to achieve everything that is in the interest of our Arab community and its urgent issues,” Jabareen added.

A spokesperson for Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy confirmed that Jabareen had filed his resignation letter, but noted that it had yet to go into effect.

“It’s not yet valid. For it to be valid, he has to come physically [to the Knesset],” the spokesperson said.

Ra’am party candidate Alaa al-Din Jabareen (YouTube screenshot)

Ordinarily, the resignation of a low-ranking party official who has not even entered the Knesset would not make waves. But the razor-thin coalition has been stumped over how to handle dissident MK Ghanaim, who has opposed the government on several key votes.

Along with Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi, Ghanaim opposed renewing decades-old emergency statutes that apply elements of Israeli civil and criminal law to settlers in the West Bank. The bill was voted down 58-52 last week, in a major failure for the coalition.

Immediately after the upset, coalition leaders began calling on the two wayward MKs to respect coalition discipline or to resign their seats, making room for the next candidates on their respective party lists.

Ghanaim, who would need to voluntarily resign his seat, has said he has no plans to quit the Knesset. But were Jabareen to take his place, he, like Ghanaim, likely would have voted against the coalition, so that swapping the former for the latter would have done little to solve his party’s woes.

Rahat deputy mayor Ataa Abu Mudaygham (courtesy)

Ever since tensions rose at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount in April, Jabareen, a hardliner, has made statements rejecting Ra’am’s compromise approach to governance. In 2018, he praised terror group rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at Israel.

If Jabareen completes his resignation and Ghanaim ends up leaving the Knesset, the next in line to take his place is Rahat deputy mayor Ataa Abu Mudaygham, who is widely seen as a supporter of Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas.

Still, if advanced to the Knesset, Mudaygham is not expected to stay long, as he is set to replace Rahat Mayor Fayez Abu Suheiban by the end of 2022. If he leaves, his spot will be filled by Yasir Hujeirat, an Islamic Movement official from the northern Bedouin town of Beir al-Maksur.

Hujeirat is not expected to make waves like Ghanaim did or Jabareen is predicted to do, and is seen as a coalition-calming choice that Abbas would support.

Ra’am MKs Ghanaim and Walid Taha both denied that the timing of Jabareen’s resignation was connected to the coalition crisis. Ghanaim told Haaretz on Sunday that Jabareen’s decision was his own and was not coordinated with Ghanaim.

Taha further claimed Jabareen’s resignation had nothing to do with the coalition’s recent troubles with Ghanaim. According to Taha, Jabareen had already declared his ideological opposition to Ra’am’s participation in the coalition in April, when Palestinians violently clashed with Israeli police at the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Al-Aqsa.

“[Jabareen] had broken with us ideologically during the Al-Aqsa incidents. He could not oppose our political path and represent us in the Knesset at the same time,” Taha told The Times of Israel.

Taha insisted that Ra’am had no desire for Ghanaim to leave his post, saying he voted with the coalition most of the time. He pointed to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, which has seen two defectors with more potentially en route, as the flailing coalition’s main problem.

Walid Taha, chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, leads a committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Look at Yamina, where two have already flown the coop — and another three are jockeying for positions elsewhere. No one should come complaining to us,” said Taha.

Coalition whip Idit Silman of Yamina broke the coalition’s majority when she resigned in early April, while MK Amichai Chikli was ousted from the party after functionally sitting with the opposition since the government’s investiture a year ago.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach is now considered the most pressing flight risk; a meeting between Orbach and Bennett ended unsuccessfully on Sunday. Orbach is coordinating his ultimate decision with fellow party members Ayelet Shaked and Abir Kara.

Since joining the coalition last year, Ra’am chief Abbas has sought to achieve tangible achievements for Arab Israeli communities at the cost of temporarily sidelining Palestinian national aspirations.

Abbas’s approach has sharply divided Arab Israelis. Those rifts run straight through his own party, which has sharply opposed many of the policies advanced by the current coalition’s right-wing flank.

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