Israel’s ‘coalition for change’ marks one-year anniversary

What happened: Israel’s most diverse coalition ever was sworn in a year ago today.

  • At yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Bennett extolled the government’s achievements so far, claiming it’s “the best government the country has had, which rests on one of the most difficult coalitions that the Knesset has known”.
  • On the economic front, according to Bennett, his government “inherited an economic collapse and have brought about 8.1 per cent growth, the highest in the advanced world. We inherited massive unemployment and have returned the masses of unemployed to livelihoods and record employment … we inherited a huge deficit that threatened the future of our children and we lowered it to zero.”
  • On security, “We inherited a south ablaze from Hamas rockets and incendiary balloons. We provided the children of Sderot and the south with the quietest year they have had in their lives. We inherited suitcases of dollars being delivered to Hamas – we stopped this contemptible practice immediately.”
  • In Israel Arab communities, “We inherited the criminal neglect of violence in the Arab sector. We have reduced murders and shooting incidents by 40 per cent; we have saved lives.”
  • Referring to March of Flags on Jerusalem Day, Bennett said, “We inherited a panicky capitulation on the flag parade last year. This year, we approved the parade without flinching,  because this is Israel’s sovereignty. We raised the spirit of the nation anew and, yes, the deterrence. We inherited hopelessness and despair vis-à-vis Iran. We brought about a historic change in the fight against it.”

Context: Despite reaching the one year milestone, the government still faces the prospect of imminent collapse.

  • The coalition-opposition is finely balanced at 60-60 in the Knesset. However, the coalition face at least three rebellious MKs that could bring down the government.
  • One rebel is MK Nir Orbach from the prime minister’s Yamina Party. He has been engaged in talks with Prime Minister Bennett, meeting him on Friday and twice yesterday. He is thought to be in talks to join the Likud and close to resigning from the coalition. However, due to his personal connection to Bennett he may wait a few more days to see if the left-wing partners can re-establish coalition discipline.
  • Yamina’s faction, originally with seven MKs, has disintegrated.  It lost Amichai Chikli at the outset, and he was formally declared a rebel and left the faction.  Two months ago, the coalition chairperson Idit Silman left the coalition, but disciplinary process has not yet begun.
  • MK Mazen Ghanaim is the rebel from the four-person United Arab List (UAL / Ra’am) faction. His party are preparing for him to resign his seat, and have convinced the next person on their list to also resign to allow, another candidate who supports the coalition to replace him.
  • According to Yediot Ahronot, MK Ghanaim was furious when he heard this yesterday and is quoted saying: “This is incredible chutzpah. I have no intention of resigning.”
  • The third rebel is Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawi Zoabi. Her party’s hierarchy are also trying to persuade her to resign in an effort to save the government.
  • Earlier this year, Rinawi Zoabi was in talks with Foreign Minister Lapid for her to be appointed Israel’s Consul-General in Shanghai. Since this failed to materialise, both sides have accused each other of acting in bad faith, further exacerbating relations.
  • Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, who brought Rinawie Zoabi into the party, commented this morning on Army Radio: “To me, the breaking of ranks going on here is extremely serious. An MK who is unwilling to vote in keeping with coalition discipline is free to resign from his or her position. No one is being held against their will. An MK’s Knesset seat doesn’t belong to him or her personally; it belongs to the party. We’re in touch; we’ll meet today.”
  • A forth rebel, MK Michael Biton from Blue and White, declared yesterday that he would no longer vote with the coalition because his demands for reforms in public transportation in the periphery were not taken into consideration.

Looking ahead: The bill to regulate civil law in the West Bank will not be voted on today as the coalition would lose (again after last week’s vote). Instead, it is expected to give the coalition partners an extra week to try to reign in their rebels before the bill returns to the Knesset.

  • Justice Minister Gideon Saar reiterated again yesterday: “It is essential to get this bill passed by the end of June in order to prevent legal chaos.”

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