The crisis in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition will be over by Monday, sources in the coalition said Saturday night after meetings with Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi.
The dissatisfied MK met for two hours on Saturday with Meretz Minister Esawi Frej and discussed her demands. She is asking to increase state funding for the French Hospital in Nazareth.
Bennett called for avoiding elections and keeping his government together on Friday, in his first comments since Rinawie Zoabi announced that she was leaving the coalition to protest a series of issues important to the Arab community in Israel.
The prime minister said giving up on his coalition now would be wrong, despite all the challenges facing its MKs across the political spectrum.
“It is correct that it is difficult,” he wrote on Facebook. “But the future of the state is in danger. We must fight and defeat Palestinian terror and we must fight to maintain the unity of our nation internally. We have no other country. Therefore we all must stand strong.”
In a series of radio interviews on Friday, Rinawie Zoabi appeared to backtrack from her decision to leave the coalition completely.
“I will support the coalition as long as it is attentive to the needs of Arab society,” she told Army Radio.
Joint List faction chairman MK Ahmad Tibi took credit on Friday for persuading Rinawie Zoabi to leave the coalition.
Sources close to Bennett said he was disturbed by how she initiated her protest, surprising the prime minister and other leaders of the government by publishing a protest letter in the media instead of raising her concerns internally.
“This is not the kind of behavior that gets you a meeting with the prime minister,” a source close to Bennett said.
Rinawie Zoabi spoke on Friday to her party leader Nitzan Horowitz, who tried to persuade her to remain in the coalition, and if not, to give up her seat in the Knesset in favor of the next candidate on the Meretz list.
It is too early to eulogize the current government, Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid wrote on social media on Friday. Lapid spoke to Rinawie Zoabi on Thursday and had what both termed a “positive conversation.”
“This government is the right thing for the State of Israel and the people of Israel,” Lapid wrote. “We have no intention of surrendering or giving up on it. We have no intention of giving 'Bibi' [former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and [MK Itamar] Ben-Gvir a chance to destroy the country. We will do what we do every time: sit with whom we need to sit, and fix what needs to be fixed.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote on social media from Washington that security considerations require keeping the current government together.
“After years of political paralysis that harmed our government and statesmanship, we have a functional government,” Gantz wrote. “We don’t lack difficulties but we serve the citizens of Israel well, and I intend to continue to do everything possible to allow our government to continue to function.”
The Joint List announced Friday that it would raise a bill this Wednesday to dissolve the Knesset. If it does not pass, no MK can bring a Knesset dissolution bill to a vote for six months. “This evil government must fall,” Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh, who will propose the bill, said on Twitter.
Bennett’s office denied a KAN report that NIS 200 million had been budgeted for a road in the Arab sector at the request of Tibi, in an effort to obtain the Joint List’s support in the Knesset.
The Likud responded that Yamina MKs should leave the coalition to protest the allocation. Opposition leader Netanyahu’s party said the money allocated for the road should provide scholarships for released IDF soldiers instead.
There is a bill that would fund scholarships up to two-thirds of tuition, but it lacks a majority, because the Likud is insisting on funding 100% of the tuition and neither Arab faction intends to vote for the bill.
That bill will come to a vote on Monday – if there is a majority to pass it.