The coalition might fall apart on Monday if Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar follows through with his threat following the failure – expected by the evening – to pass the first reading of a bill that would renew emergency laws over the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
As the Post’s Tovah Lazaroff explained last week, the bill, which extends emergency regulations for Area C of the West Bank, is passed automatically every five years.
It is a legislative go-around that allows for the governance of Israeli civilians living outside Israel’s sovereign borders in Judea and Samaria in a manner that does not meet the criteria of annexation.
Among the legal arenas that are impacted would be the right of the government to tax citizens living in the settlements, as well as their right to receive state health insurance and national insurance.
It would also prevent the Israel Police from operating in the settlements, leaving criminal matters in the hands of the Military Police. Civilians charged with offenses would find themselves before a military court and facing time in military prisons.
“The government has an obligation to pass routine legal arrangements like this bill. I made that clear to the heads of the parties. A coalition MK who opposes the bill is saying, ‘I don’t want this government to continue,’” Sa’ar said during a round of TV interviews last week.
Sa'ar isn't wrong
Sa’ar is not necessarily wrong. A government that cannot do something as basic as ensure the continued laws that regulate the rights and duties of Israeli civilians over the Green Line, is a government that needs to question its existence. While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid openly claim that it is to “save the country” from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power – this time with Itamar Ben-Gvir in tow – this might not be enough.
“The government has an obligation to pass routine legal arrangements like this bill. I made that clear to the heads of the parties. A coalition MK who opposes the bill is saying, ‘I don’t want this government to continue.’”New Hope Leader Gideon Sa'ar
A government needs to provide for its citizens. That is, in fact, what the Bennett-Lapid government did in November when it passed a state budget for the first time in three-and-a-half years after Netanyahu had held it as a way to cling to power. A state budget is something that every country needs. It plans out and funds the needed upgrades to infrastructure, state programs and more; millions of lives are dependent on it. Not allowing it to pass was gross negligence.
The bill that is needed for the Jewish residents of the West Bank is not that much different. Without this law – it needs to pass by the end of the month, which is why proceedings need to begin this week – the residents will not be able to do basic things that citizens of the rest of the country (or more accurately those who live within the Green Line) take for granted.
Lacking a majority
For now, the government lacks a majority, ever since the withdrawal of Yamina MK Idit Silman from the coalition and her move to the opposition, reportedly after being promised a slot and ministerial portfolio in a future Likud-led government. It is even questionable what the Arab party Ra’am will do. If Mansour Abbas sees that the bill is unlikely to pass, why would he even bother voting for something that his constituents view as undermining Palestinian rights and reinforcing the so-called occupation?
If the bill fails in a big loss to the coalition, a shake-up will be possible. The right-wing flank of the coalition – which includes Sa’ar’s New Hope Party as well as the new Yamina faction of three led by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked – will have a hard time staying put knowing that they have failed to provide something that is so basic for the lives of Israeli citizens, in a place that is so politically volatile like the settlements in the West Bank.
We hope the government succeeds in passing the first reading of the legislation on Monday and caution those MKs who appear preoccupied with their political future over the fate of nearly half a million Israelis who live over the Green Line. Remember why you were elected to office and what you swore when you took up your seat in the Knesset. You came to serve the people.