JERUSALEM – An Arab-Israeli lawmaker who left the ruling coalition on Sunday said he was returning to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s 60-member coalition, ending a crisis that lasted only a few days.
Bennett’s two other legislators have already resigned and joined the opposition led by former leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Within a year of Bennett’s broad coalition government taking power, Rinaui Joabi’s departure raised the possibility of new parliamentary elections. But with a 60-member coalition in a stalemate with the opposition, it will remain difficult to pass legislation.
Recent Israeli-Palestinian tensions, a series of deadly Palestinian attacks against Israel and Israeli arrests in the occupied West Bank, and repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in the holy city of Jerusalem, have shaken the coalition’s stability.
But on Sunday, Rinaui Joaby went the other way, saying his main concerns were securing “acquisitions for the needs of Arab society” in Israel and preventing an opposition ultra-nationalist extremist from becoming the next police minister.
He announced his return to the coalition after meeting with Foreign Minister Yar Lapid, who wrote on Twitter that the two had “open and reasonable conversations about the real needs of Arab society” and put aside their differences.
As the leader of a small nationalist party, Bennett is leading an indomitable coalition of eight diverse parties – ranging from the Dovish party supporting the Palestinian state to the extremist and, for the first time in Israeli history, an Islamist Arab party. They joined forces in June after four consecutive by-elections aimed at ousting long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
As part of their union, the parties agreed to set aside divisive issues, such as the Palestinian state, and to focus on issues such as the coronavirus epidemic and the economy. Despite its internal divisions, it has been able to pass a budget, navigate the epidemic, and strengthen ties with both the Biden administration and Israel’s Arab allies.