Israeli PM Bennett’s grip on power weakens as MP resigns over crackdown
Zoabi pointed to an escalation in violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem
Jerusalem — Israel’s ruling coalition became a minority in parliament on Thursday when MP Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from left-wing Meretz party quit, leaving Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with a more precarious grip on power.
The exit by Zoabi leaves Bennett controlling 59 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. In a letter to the prime minister, she cited ideological differences.
The opposition could seek to exploit her walkout by submitting a motion to dissolve the government and hold an early election. In a possible reprieve for Bennett, Zoabi stopped short of saying she would vote in favour.
In her letter Zoabi pointed to an escalation in violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, as well as tactics by Israeli police at the funeral last week of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
“I cannot keep supporting the existence of a coalition that shamefully harasses the society I came from,” she said in the letter circulated in Israeli media.
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”, reports said.
She acknowledged that voting to dissolve the government may not be in the interest of the Arab public who make up about 21% of the Israeli population.
“I’m not under any illusions. I know that this coalition may be the sanest possible option — including for the Arab public,” she told Channel 12 TV. “I’m not going to blow it up automatically.”
Bennett heads a collection of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties that was sworn in a year ago, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12-year run as prime minister.
It lost its slight majority in April when an MP from Bennett’s own party quit the coalition.
The government is now more vulnerable and may seek external support to buttress itself against no-confidence votes in parliament.
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