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Israeli government rocked by resignation of Meretz MP

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi cited her dissatisfaction with the coalition’s policies against ‘Arab society’ 
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime minister's office in Jerusalem, on 15 May 2022 (AFP)

An Israeli lawmaker quit the ruling coalition on Thursday, leaving it with fewer seats in parliament than the opposition in the latest blow to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government. 

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, an MP for the left-wing Meretz party, announced her departure in a letter sent to the Israeli prime minister citing her dissatisfaction with the coalition’s policies.

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"I entered politics because I saw myself as an emissary of Arab society, which I represent," the Nazareth-born politician wrote in the letter addressed to Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

"Unfortunately over the last few months for narrow political reasons, the heads of the coalition preferred to strengthen their right side. Again and again, the heads of the coalition preferred to take harsh hawkish right-wing steps on key issues related to Arab society.”

Zoabi’s withdrawal will leave the ruling coalition with 59 seats in parliament, with the opposition now holding 61.

The Meretz MP wrote that scenes of Israeli policemen cracking down on Palestinian worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque and "exerting violence over a crowd of worshipers and the funeral of Palestinian journalist Sheerin Abu Akleh" was part of the reason that led her to decide to quit.

“I cannot continue to support the existence of a coalition that in this shameful manner harasses the society I came from,” she added.

Government hanging by a thread

Zoabi's resignation was cheered by Likud opposition party members. Since Benjamin Netanyahu's party was ousted from power in June 2021 after 12 years of leading Israel, it has sought to crack Naftali Bennett's coalition.

“Bennett and Lapid’s failed government has turned into a minority government,” Yariv Levin, an MP with Likud said. “Now it’s clear the government has lost its right to exist.”

However, Bennett's government remains standing, and it would require a vote of no confidence in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, to bring it down.

'I cannot continue to support the existence of a coalition that in this shameful manner harasses the society I came from'

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, Meretz MP

Israeli media reported that Zoabi does not intend to push for the collapse of the government and that Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz will be meeting Zoabi tomorrow to discuss her decision.

“I intend to do everything in my power to persuade my friend Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to return to work with the coalition,” said Meretz faction leader Michal Rozin.

“Even if there are reasons to dismantle the government, none of them are better than the terrible alternative. I believe that this government has challenges that can be overcome. The broad interest is to do everything possible to prevent further elections and to block the return of the extreme right to the corridors of power,” Rozin said.

Ayman Odeh, chief of the Joint List party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, hailed Zoabi's decision.

“Most of the public wants [Arab-Jewish] partnership. But for that to happen, the sane majority must separate from the extreme right. We won’t be second class partners,” Odeh said.

Zoabi's decision comes over a month after Idit Silman, an MP with Bennett's Yamina party, quit over a Supreme Court ruling lifting the prohibition of leavened bread during Passover holidays.

Since then, the government has been hanging by a thread with the same number of seats as the opposition. 

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