The Knesset will return from its summer and holiday recess on Monday amid threats from the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party to leave Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition over family reunification of Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs.
The coalition failed in July to pass the Citizenship Law that blocks citizenship for such Palestinians, which could have opened the floodgates to thousands of such cases. But since then, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has single-handedly blocked them by refusing to deal with their requests.
“If the issues pertaining to Arab society are not resolved, we will enable an election to be initiated by November 14,” said Knesset Interior Committee chairman Walid Taha of Ra’am. “If Shaked does not keep agreements we reached about the Citizenship Law, we will go to an election. Our coalition partners know that.”
November 14 is the deadline for the narrow 61-MK coalition to pass the state budget, or else an election in February would automatically be initiated.
Shaked asked for more time to reach a compromise after the budget is passed. Meanwhile, the coalition rejected an immigration bill in Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that would be much tougher than the Citizenship Law.
The bill’s sponsor, Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman, turned down a request by Shaked to delay the vote on the bill. He intends to bring it to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday, which could embarrass right-wing members of the coalition.
Rothman said the coalition would have to commit to legislate his bill for him to delay bringing it to a vote.
“They need to pay to prevent them from being shamed,” Rothman said. “Shaked says she’s not letting [such Palestinians] in yet but the loopholes are there, and Yamina has proven its leaders cannot be trusted. They won’t be able to handle the pressure from Ra’am demanding to let [the Palestinians] in for their votes on the budget. Ministers who call themselves nationalist and Zionist have abandoned Israel to the mercy of the Islamic Movement that will quietly implement their right of return.”
The coalition also continues to face challenges from the personal ambitions of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Channel 12 reported that in his meeting with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas last month, Gantz said he “wants to be the new [Yitzhak] Rabin.”
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s decision to support a probe of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s role in the submarine affair was seen as a gesture to keep Gantz satisfied and in the coalition. Gantz had requested the investigation immediately after the government’s formation.