Coalition crisis over ‘Jewish state bill’ ebbs as dispute looms over Zoabi

Legislation would permit Knesset to ban any MK who encourages terrorism, acts against the state even if he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

November 25, 2014 03:25
2 minute read.

Justice Minister Livni, Finance Minister Lapid attend weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A political crisis that threatened to bring down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and force elections died down Monday when a vote over the controversial “Jewish state bill” was postponed until next week.

Attention shifted Monday night to a new dispute inside Netanyahu’s coalition, this time over a bill that would enable the legislature to remove Balad MK Haneen Zoabi from the Knesset immediately and permanently.

The bill, proposed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), would permit the Knesset to ban an MK who encourages terrorism and acts against the state even if he or she has not been convicted of a crime. Netanyahu told the Likud faction Monday that he intended to support the bill as long as technical changes were made, such as requiring a special majority.

Hatnua and Yesh Atid officials said their factions opposed the bill, which passed in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The Knesset is set to vote on a preliminary reading of the legislation Wednesday, but Yesh Atid and Hatnua intend to appeal the bill’s passage in the committee, which would prevent it from coming to a vote in the plenum.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who supports both controversial bills, mediated between the factions in the coalition Monday and succeeded in persuading them to postpone the vote on the “Jewish state bill.” Representatives of the parties in the coalition are expected to meet in upcoming days to draft a new version of the bill they can agree on.

Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni, who vigorously opposes the bill in its current format, told The Jerusalem Post Monday that the fight over the legislation was not over.

“No compromise has been reached,” she said. “It has just been postponed.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department said of the “Jewish state bill” that “We expect it to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.”

Netanyahu continued to entertain the possibility of initiating early elections Monday.

When he was asked at the start of the Likud’s faction meeting if the next race would be advanced, he said it would be clear in a matter of days.

Netanyahu said he was determined to pass the bill even without the support of his coalition partners.

“Netanyahu doesn’t want elections, but he is not ready to accept the coalition partners’ behavior as it has been,” said coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin. “It was always the Likud that has had to compromise.

It won’t be that way anymore.

No one can threaten us with elections because it’s those who threaten who are going down in the polls, not us.”

Elkin, who sponsored the “Jewish state bill,” said he realized that the legislation lacks a majority in the Knesset, and therefore the only way to pass it would be to negotiate with Yesh Atid and Hatnua and draft a version they could support.

Yesh Atid’s faction decided Monday to not support the bill in its current wording. Party leader Yair Lapid warned that the bill was an example of the old style of dirty politics his party was formed to change.

“We won’t compromise on our values for political horse trading,” Lapid said.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) called upon Livni and Lapid to leave Netanyahu’s coalition as soon as possible.

“Netanyahu is endangering Israel’s basic interests,” Herzog told his faction. “Israel is stuck with Netanyahu in power.”

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