Report: After Meretz MK returns, Yamina lawmaker threatens to jump ship

Nir Orbach said to warn he could soon flee as ‘this government increasingly has the image of one that capitulates to Arabs’

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

As one coalition crisis abates, another may be one the rise. Channel 13 reported Sunday that Yamina MK Nir Orbach has once again threatened he could soon quit the government, depriving it of its parliamentary majority.

The alleged threat came on the same day that a Meretz MK who last week announced her departure from the coalition reversed course and returned to the fold.

According to the network, Orbach has said he is “on the edge.” The legislator is reportedly concerned that “this government increasingly has the image of one that capitulates to Arabs. If it doesn’t stop, I’ll be out quicker than they may think.”

The report said coalition officials are taking the threat seriously and are in “intensive care” mode to assuage Orbach’s concerns.

Earlier on Sunday Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said she would continue to support the government, days after she declared that she was leaving the coalition.

Zoabi’s announcement last week that she would depart the government put the coalition in the minority; with her return, the opposition/coalition breakdown returned to 60 MKs each, seemingly removing the immediate threat of the Knesset disbanding and early elections being called.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi attends a Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs meeting, in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zoabi’s decision came following a meeting in Jerusalem with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and several cabinet ministers and mayors to address her terms for returning to the government.

Zoabi said she realized that “the alternative to this government will be [far-right MK Itamar] Ben-Gvir as police minister, and I want to prevent that alternative.”

According to sources quoted by Hebrew media, the mayors did not make any direct demands to Lapid but highlighted their feeling of frustration about the government not making good on its obligations and promises to the Arab community.

There were reports that Rinawie Zoabi was promised that the government will release funds earmarked for Arab towns. Her return came days after the Ra’am party also came back to the fold amid reports of various promises by coalition leaders to be more attentive to their public’s needs.

Orbach has long been seen as a Yamina MK whose commitment to the coalition is shaky, due to his hard-right views.

After party MK Idit Silman bolted the government last month, leaving it without a majority, Orbach was considered a flight risk as well. He made several demands of government heads at the time, threatening to depart as well if they were not met.

Orbach demanded to hold off on a plan that would have slashed daycare subsidies for some children of ultra-Orthodox families,; to convene a planning commission to approve building plans fo new homes in the West Bank; and to move forward on connecting illegal settlement outposts to the power grid.

On Sunday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett noted “the upheavals” facing the coalition but insisted that if members of both its right and left flanks are disgruntled, the government was probably striking the right note.

“It’s a likely sign the government is right in the middle… This is the meaning of compromise,” he said. “This is a good government for Israel and we won’t give up.”

The premier argued that the government has prioritized action over ideological disputes and said coalition members must focus on what’s good for the country and not a “narrow sectoral interest.”

“We all need to understand that nobody will be 100 percent content. This is group work, not individual,” he said. “I’m sure that if we all continue to show goodwill, the government will emerge successfully from all crises.”

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