Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition defeated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition on Wednesday in a vote on the preliminary reading of a bill that would initiate the construction of a new hospital in the Arab town of Sakhnin.
Ra’am (United Arab List) MK Mazen Ghanaim, who is a former mayor of Sakhnin, cast the deciding vote in favor of the bill, which passed 51-50.
Ghanaim, who intends to run for mayor again, joined with MKs from Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the Joint List and the Religious Zionist Party in voting for the bill, which was sponsored by Joint List leader Ayman Odeh. Even the most right-wing MK, Itamar Ben-Gvir, came to vote for the Arab hospital.
The other three MKs in Ra’am and the rest of the coalition voted against the bill. Likud MKs taunted the MKs from Ra’am during the vote and applauded after Deputy Knesset Speaker Ahmad Tibi announced in Arabic that the bill had passed.
Odeh told the plenum he would be willing to work with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz in planning the hospital. But the bill would still have to pass three times in Knesset committees and in the plenum to become law, which is very unlikely.
Odeh said the bill was the first step toward correcting the injustice of there not being any hospital in any Arab town in Israel.
Ben-Gvir said he voted for the bill, because he has nothing against Arabs who do not work against the state, and that he is against the current government, whose end he hopes he hastened with his vote.
Ra'am head Mansour Abbas explained his vote against the hospital on Army Radio, saying the Likud was just engaging in a cynical political maneuver to divide the coalition, while Odeh was just trying to malign Ra’am.
“There are no plans for the hospital and there is no chance of it being built,” he said.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, who presented the government’s opposition to the bill, laughed at the Likud MKs, saying their party had been in power for twelve years and took no step whatsoever to build the hospital.
The coalition later lost another vote, on a bill designating incitement against haredim (ultra-Orthodox) as a crime.
The Likud central committee will convene on Thursday to vote on a proposal to prevent the party from ever joining a coalition with Ra’am or any other non-Zionist party. The proposal, initiated by former MK Shevah Stern, has been endorsed by nearly every current Likud MK.