Israeli coalition becomes minority gov’t after legislator quits

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi reportedly cited treatment of mourners at Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral in resignation letter.

Less than a year after taking office, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's governing coalition has lost its majority in parliament [File: Maya Alleruzzo/The Associated Press]

Jerusalem – Israel’s governing coalition has become a minority in parliament after lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the left-wing Meretz party quit.

Zoabi announced her resignation from the government to coalition leaders Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in a letter that was circulated on Israeli media on Thursday.

She said she pulled her support for the government on ideological grounds, leaving Bennet with only 59 of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

“Unfortunately, in recent months, out of narrow political considerations the leaders of the coalition have chosen to preserve and strengthen its right-wing flank,” said the letter.

The Israeli-Palestinian legislator added that she “cannot support a coalition that is disgracefully harassing the society I come from”.

She explained that violence against worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and during the funeral procession of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last Friday were among the events that led to her decision.

Zoabi also wrote that she had initially joined the coalition with hope that the government might help bring “a new path of equality and respect,” but that coalition leaders had chosen to take “hawkish, hard-line and right-wing positions”.

Israeli legislator Shlomo Karhi from the opposition Likud party led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the move.

“There are anti-Zionists like Zoabi who struggle even in a fully anti-Zionist government,” he tweeted.

“Truth is, rightly so. This government has absolutely no values. They sold out everything, whether right or left, for respect and power,” said Karhi.

He added, “We are living days where anti-Zionists are helping Jews to get rid of the government.”

Palestinian-Israeli lawmaker Ibtisam Mara’ana, a member of the Labour Party which is part of the governing coalition, said in a tweet that she was sad to hear of Zoabi’s resignation.

“This coalition has been very important in the complicated reality of Israel. Every day this coalition survives is a day where light is victorious over dark,” she said.

Israeli-Palestinian lawmaker Sami Abu Shehada from the Arab Joint List told Al Jazeera that would have to wait until Zoabi’s next move before he could comment.

‘Earthquake for the Israeli government’

According to Israeli analyst Eli Nissan, Zoabi’s resignation puts the prospect of a snap election – which would be Israel’s fifth in three years – back on the table.

“The defection of Zoabi is an earthquake for the Israeli government. Her stepping down and that of Silman has led to no majority in parliament,” said Nissan, in reference to Idit Silman, a key member of Bennett’s own right-wing Yamina party who quit the government last month.

Silman resigned in a surprise move that left the prime minister with 60 instead of 61 seats in parliament, causing Bennet’s coalition to lose its slight majority.

“The next step would be calls for a vote of no confidence,” said Nissan, as Israeli media reported Knesset sources were expecting the opposition to call for a motion to dissolve the government next Wednesday.

While Nissan explained that Lapid and other members of parliament were trying to convince Zoabi to reverse her decision, he said, “If all these attempts fail, there will be a call for new elections in September.”

Bennett leads a collection of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties that was sworn in a year ago, ending Netanyahu’s record 12-year run as prime minister.

Israeli media reported that Zoabi’s own party, Meretz, was unaware of her decision to quit and that she refused to meet the party leader, Nitzan Horowitz.

Source: Al Jazeera