Arab MK Who Bolted Coalition Says She Won’t Help Topple Govt. Since ‘Alternative Is Much Worse’


JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who bolted the coalition last week claiming that the government was taking nationalist, anti-Arab positions,  said Friday that despite resigning from the coalition, she may still cooperate with the ruling bloc and prevent the fall of the government since “the alternative is worse.”

“Of course, I do not want to see Netanyahu return,” she said in an interview with Haaretz , in reference to the possibility that the former prime minister will return and form a radical right-wing government.

Nonetheless, Rinawie Zoabi said she had not yet decided how she would vote on legislation to dissolve the Knesset and initiate snap elections if it is submitted by the opposition next week — a remark that seemed to contradict her assertion that the alternatives to the current unity government would be worse.

While her resignation leaves the coalition with just 59 MKs, and a preliminary reading of a bill to disperse the Knesset for new elections needs only a simple majority, it would need an absolute majority of at least 61 MKs to clear its subsequent three readings, and it is not clear that the opposition could muster those 61 votes.

Despite the muddled statements coming from the Meretz MK, she apparently does not intend to resign her Knesset seat as demanded by other MKs in the party but rather to stay in the Knesset while opposing the government- but preventing it from being toppled.

“Returning to the coalition is not something that is on the agenda for me,” Zoabi told Haaretz. “Maybe I will press [the coalition] from the [opposition] for the government to start taking the demands of the Arab public as well as the Palestinian issue seriously. I thought the government should continue in a balanced way while being attentive to [the concerns of] Arab society. Unfortunately, this did not happen.”

In a separate interview with the Arabic Nas Radio, Rinawie Zoabi did not rule out the possibility of resigning from the Knesset entirely to make way for a Meretz MK who is supportive of the coalition.

Speaking to Haaretz, Rinawie Zoabi criticized the other members of her own party, accusing them of ignoring her and leaving her to fight on behalf of the Arab public on her own. The MK said she pushed for the party to issue a condemnation of the police’s conduct at the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh but that no one rallied around the initiative. Officers were seen pushing and beating mourners, causing pallbearers to nearly drop her coffin during a procession last Friday that drew international outcry.

“Those people who are supposed to represent Meretz. Is this what matters to them? Being in government at all costs? There are no principles? It amazes me that time and again the Jewish Israeli left wants us Arabs to save them from Netanyahu on the one hand, while on the other, they tell us to do what they want without having an opinion. It does not work that way in a true partnership. If Netanyahu returns, it will be the fault of [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz and [Interior Minister Ayelet] Shaked.”

Zuabi was referring to Shaked’s initiative to advance the Citizenship Law, which renewed a ban on permits for Palestinians who marry Israelis to live with their spouses in Israel. Meanwhile, Gantz, who is de facto ruler of Judea and Samaria, recently authorized plans for another 4500 settlement homes in the region.

Rinawie Zoabi also referred to her meeting with Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas, saying they discussed the mutual frustration over the “rightward turn” of the government in recent months.

An unsourced Channel 13 report claimed Abbas offered to reserve a spot for Rinawie Zoabi in his Islamist party if she agreed to continue backing the coalition. The network also said, without citing a source, that Rinawie Zoabi was demanding the government earmark NIS 30 million ($9 million) to fund a hospital in Nazareth in exchange for her support.

Rinawie Zoabi was previously promised the role of Israel’s consul in Shanghai in an effort to keep some distance between her and the Knesset after she abstained from a coalition vote on the draft law. Her appointment, however, has not gone smoothly, leading politicians to believe Rinawie Zoabi’s resignation is aimed merely at ensuring she is indeed given the role. Should the Meretz lawmaker enter the role officially, the assessment is that she will likely withdraw her resignation.


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