Israel's gov't in crisis after rebel MKs sink West Bank emergency bill

The coalition failed to pass a directive giving Israel jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank that has been approved every five years since 1967.

NAFTALI BENNETT consults with Yair Lapid in the Knesset last week. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
NAFTALI BENNETT consults with Yair Lapid in the Knesset last week.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

In a critical blow to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government late Monday, the coalition failed to pass a directive giving Israel legal jurisdiction over Israelis living in the West Bank that has been approved every five years since 1967.

Opposition MKs applauded following the announcement of the results that the vote fell with 52 votes for it and 58 against it. Failure of the bill led to immediate speculation that the government will soon fall and Israel will head to a new election. 

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz) and Mazen Ghanaim (Ra’am – United Arab List) voted against the bill and other Ra'am MKs and former coalition head Idit Silman absented themselves from the vote. Without their support, it was impossible to pass the bill, which must be reapproved by the end of June.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach confronted Ghanaim and shouted at him that their partnership in the coalition had failed.

“Some you win, some you lose,” Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who initiated the bill, told The Jerusalem Post following a meeting with Bennett. “Today, we’re on the other side.”

 Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Sa’ar intends to convene a special meeting of his New Hope faction to decide their future in the coalition.

Not passing the bill would cause chaos, he told the faction on Monday. By opposing the bill, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was harming the residents of Judea and Samaria and advancing his own personal interests at the expense of the state, he said.

“All coalition members must support the government’s bill,” Sa’ar said. “Any coalition member who does not support such a fundamental bill is actively working to dismantle the coalition. Being in the coalition does not only mean receiving. There is also responsibility. Whoever does not support it cannot wash their hands, claiming innocence. A country cannot be run this way.”

"Any coalition member who does not support such a fundamental bill is actively working to dismantle the coalition."

Justice Minister Gideon Saar

How will security forces proceed?

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he was looking for a nonlegislative solution to the problem.

“I instructed the defense system to map out which regulations can be brought by regional commanders if the legislation gets stuck,” he said.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, said no one should be surprised by Netanyahu preventing a bill from passing that would prevent West Bank chaos.

“He has harmed Judea and Samaria more than anyone else,” he said. “That is tradition with Netanyahu. That is part of his DNA.”

Liberman said Netanyahu as prime minister had implemented the Hebron and Wye accords, voted for the Gaza Strip disengagement, froze West Bank construction in 2009 and released Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in the Gilat Schalit prisoner exchange.

“For power, anything is permitted for him,” Liberman said. “There is no conscience.”

Labor leader Merav Michaeli warned rebels on the Left not to let Netanyahu come back to power, along with Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and “give them the power to let the country burn.”

Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich said he was not concerned about harming his constituents in Judea and Samaria by halting the bill. It is better to bring down the government, form a right-wing coalition and then pass it, he said.

“A coalition that cannot pass its bills and is artificially respirated by [Joint List MK] Ahmad Tibi and the Joint List is illegitimate and bound to fall,” Smotrich told his faction. “Residents of Judea and Samaria are strong and understand the importance of bringing down the anti-Zionist government.”