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The return of an Arab MK to Israel's government coalition will not prevent its collapse

A general view shows the swearing-in ceremony of Israel's Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, on April 6, 2021 [ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
A general view of Israel's Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem on April 6, 2021 [ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL/AFP/Getty Images]

Arab Israeli parliamentarian Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi, of Meretz, announced her resignation from the coalition government in Israel without prior notice. Her departure put the life of the teetering coalition at stake. When asked why she had resigned, Rinawie-Zoabi said that promises made to the Arab population in Israel failed to be fulfilled.

One day after her resignation, Arab Joint List Knesset Member (MK) Sami Abou Shahadeh announced that he would submit legislation to begin the process of dissolving the current parliament. This pushed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to delegate Mansour Abbas, MK, the leader of the United Arab List ("Ra'am"), to talk to Rinawie-Zoabi and try to persuade her to return to the coalition.

Bennett has already been criticised harshly for his alliance with Abbas; his government was accused of being dominated by the "Shura Council". Even so, the prime minister insisted on asking for Abbas's help in an attempt to prevent the collapse of his reeling government.

As well as Abbas, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Rinawie-Zoabi to persuade her to return to the government. Several Arab mayors attended the meeting with Lapid, and the Times of Israel reported them as saying that they put a lot of pressure on her to withdraw her resignation.

In the end, therefore, Rinawie-Zoabi returned to the coalition and the possibility of dissolving the Knesset is now unlikely. Will, though, the government be stable and complete its term; and will Bennett be able to complete his two-year tenure before Lapid takes his place as prime minister?

I believe that the return of this single Arab Israeli MK only gives the government a lifeline for a very short time, because the reasons for her resignation are still issues of concern. The mediators involved in persuading her to return to the government were reported as saying that the government will help the promises made to Rinawie-Zoabi to be fulfilled, and this will help to improve the life of Arab citizens and end the racism against them.

READ: Israel government determined to stay in power amid legislator's exit, says co-chair

According to the Mayor of Kafr Kanna, Izz Al-Din Amarna, though, "hundreds of millions of shekels" promised to Arab communities as part of a five-year plan to reduce inequality between Arab and Jewish towns have yet to be distributed. However, the Mayor of Kafr Manda, Ali Khader Zidan, has a different view.

"There will be a vote in the Finance Ministry to disperse this money soon. We are talking about hundreds of millions of shekels here that they need to transfer," Amarna told the Times of Israel. Zidan, though, said: "It is not an issue of budgets that were agreed upon… What needed to happen was to plan a system by which the money will arrive in the field and to fix the regulations so that the money will arrive in Arab municipalities."

It means that the same promises made before the formation of the coalition were just repeated. Nothing has changed This was confirmed in a statement issued by Bennett's Yamina Party as it noted that no new funds were budgeted in the negotiations with Rinawie-Zoabi; it was the release of already agreed-upon funds that was discussed.

What's more, Rinawie-Zoabi also said that she quit the government in protest at the escalation of violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem, as well as the tactics used by Israeli police at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on 13 May.

As nothing was actually addressed during the meeting which led to her return, she might leave again at any time when she feels that those who promised to deal with these issues have done nothing. The first test might be the controversial, anti-Arab Flag March scheduled for 29 May which will pass through the Damascus Gate into the occupied Old City of Jerusalem.

Rinawie-Zoabi is not the only MK around whom there is talk of quitting the government. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Deputy Minister Avir Kara and MK Nir Orbach might also leave. Orbach issued an ultimatum that he will jump out of Bennett's boat if the latter does not approve the building of more settlement units and commit to the outline of illegal settlement outpost Eviatar, approved in February by former Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and agreed upon by Bennett, Shaked and Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

The outline said that the outpost will be evacuated and guarded by Israeli occupation forces until a survey is conducted to see whether the land can be declared to be "state property" before handing it over to the settlers to build a settlement.

Shaked, Orbach and Kara have taken a step back after the pledges of new settlement units, but Orbach did not say whether or not he has withdrawn his ultimatum. If Bennett does not want to infuriate US President Joe Biden and stop his potential visit to Israel, he might put a freeze on his approval of new settlement units. This could anger Orbach and push him to leave the coalition.

The issue of Bennett's commitment to Eviatar's outline might also push Orbach's bloc of three MKs to quit. These issues are also putting the existence of the coalition government at stake. Said Bsharat, a specialist in the Israeli affairs, told me on Sunday night, that the coalition government will collapse, sooner or later.

READ: After one year in power, Israel gov't may be forced out

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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