JERUSALEM — Israel’s latest governmental crisis was resolved, at least temporarily, on Sunday when a lawmaker who left the coalition late last week agreed to return to it and pull back the slim majority the opposition had this weekend.
The coalition, an ideologically diverse alliance of eight parties with conflicting agendas, now has 60 seats in the 120-seat parliament, a position that allows it to stay in power but makes governing difficult.
Many Israelis believe the days of this government – barely a year old and inherently unstable – remain numbered despite the resolution of the crisis on Sunday, and expect Israel to return to the polls for its fifth election in less than a month. than four years.
Recent weeks have been particularly tumultuous for the government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose unusual coalition is made up of parties from the right, left and political, and includes a small Islamist party for the first time. Those partners came together mainly out of a shared desire to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and break a political deadlock that had forced Israel into four consecutive elections.
The lawmaker at the center of the most recent disruption, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a member of Israel’s Palestinian minority from the left-wing Meretz party, resigned on Thursday, saying the government was not determined to improve conditions for Arab citizens make up one-fifth of the country’s population. She also pointed to Israel’s recent interventions at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a police attack on mourners at the funeral of a Palestinian journalist.
On Sunday, after days of intense meetings and phone calls from politicians pleading with her to resume her participation in and commitments to her party and the coalition, Ms Rinawie Zoabi said in a statement that she had reversed her decision “under tremendous pressure from the leaders.” from local Arab councils, who turned to me and understood the significance of my resignation.”
She said she was doing this to help her people and to avoid the possibility that the alternative to the Bennett government would be one in which a far-right politician, Itamar Ben-Gvir, would be the next minister to oversee the police. .
Her return to the coalition is likely to have averted a vote scheduled for Wednesday to dissolve parliament, as the opposition is now unlikely to gain a majority.
Mr Netanyahu continued to undermine the government on Sunday after Ms Rinawie Zoabi’s turnaround, calling her “dependent on haters of Israel and supporters of terrorism,” referring to her Arab members. Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, leads the opposition and is determined to return even while on trial on corruption charges.
The tumult of the past few weeks has been bad even by Israeli standards and a far cry from Mr Bennett’s promise to end years of political chaos and deadlock.
Last month, another coalition member resigned, saying the government’s direction did not match the values of the right-wing voters who brought her party to power. Legislator, Idit Silman, of Bennett’s Yamina party, said it was time to try and form a new “national, Jewish, Zionist” coalition with right-wing lawmakers.
Less than two weeks ago, the small Islamist party Raam agreed to rejoin the coalition, a month after it suspended its participation in protests against police actions at the Aqsa mosque.
Israeli commentators have called this the season of political extortion, with the shaky government at risk of collapsing with any resignation or suspension and with the opposition planning to lure another defector to cross the border.
Many expect the government to hold out no longer than March, if it comes to that. If the government cannot muster a majority of 61 votes to pass a budget by the legal deadline that month, the parliament will automatically be dissolved, sending Israelis back to the polls next summer.