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TV: Ra’am resolves spat with Interior Minister Shaked ahead of budget vote

Senior member of the Islamist party tells Kan ‘the main obstacle’ has been settled, but other smaller issues remain; critical bills to be brought before November 14 deadline

Ra'am chief Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on October 4, 2021; Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Ra'am chief Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on October 4, 2021; Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A squabble between the Islamist Ra’am party and other coalition members that has challenged the government ahead of a key vote on Israel’s first budget in years has been resolved with an agreement reached between the sides, a Saturday television report said.

A senior member of Ra’am told Kan news that “the main obstacle” to their support for the 2021-2022 budget had been resolved, and that there had been “significant progress” with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who had been at the center of the tiff.

The obstacle the official was referring to was apparently related to certain budgets for Arab locales, which Ra’am has been fighting for.

“Budgets will not be diverted from the Jewish to Arab authorities,” the source said, “but will be from an external budget obtained by the party. We are against transferring budgets from poor localities to poorer localities, but rather seek for everyone to receive budgets equally.”

The Ra’am official added that there were other “smaller” disputes with coalition members that were expected to be resolved in the coming weeks.

On Tuesday, Ra’am MK Walid Taha, head of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, canceled meetings that had been planned to mark up an economics arrangements bill accompanying the budget proposal.

MK Walid Taha (Ra’am) attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The cancellation came after Shaked delayed a bill pushed by Ra’am to allow homes built without proper permits to still be hooked up to electricity.

In a tweet, Taha threatened that the party could leave the government — thus forcing its collapse — if promises made during coalition negotiations were not held up.

“The time for decisions has come! Either the agreements are honored in full or we go to elections,” he wrote. “Electricity is a basic life necessity and the state is preventing thousands of homes from being hooked up because it could not be bothered for decades to advance building plans in the Arab community.” Taha accused the country of punishing residents who had been forced into the situation.

Some 90,000 people live in unrecognized Bedouin townships in Israel’s southern Negev desert. The Israeli government considers the sprawling villages illegal, and the residents, many of whom make up Ra’am’s political base, live in impoverished conditions, with little access to electricity and running water.

A view of houses in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Sawaneen in Israel’s southern Negev Desert, on June 8, 2021. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

The law being pushed by Ra’am and delayed by Shaked would have allowed the Israel Electric Company to connect homes to the grid even if they do not have permits. It would have also let the company replace illegal makeshift power hookups, prevalent in some areas, with regulated legal connections.

Ra’am, the first Arab party to enter the government in decades, has used its unique position to push for an end to neglect in Arab communities.

The coalition is made up of just 61 members, giving it the thinnest possible majority in the 120-seat Knesset and giving Ra’am or any other party the power to bring down the government by pulling out of it.

Failure to pass the pair of budget bills in second and third readings in the Knesset plenum by a November 14 deadline would automatically dissolve parliament and trigger elections.

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