Feb 23, 2022 - World

Cracks in Israel's coalition government start to show

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center) and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/pool via Getty Image

Eight months after it was sworn in, Israel's fragile unity government is showing its first cracks.

Why it matters: The government has lost its voting majority on key issues, and while there is no imminent threat of collapse, the coalition could go down that path if internal frictions can't be contained.

Driving the news: Two weeks ago, the Ra'am Islamic party decided to stop voting with the coalition because several promises they received for joining the coalition have not been fulfilled. As a result, the government lost its majority on several votes and had to postpone them.

  • Then on Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz started a rebellion of his own. He said his Blue and White party wouldn't vote with the coalition unless commitments he received on increased pensions for military officers were fulfilled. That forced more votes to be postponed.
  • On Tuesday, the situation escalated when Eli Avidar, a minister without portfolio, resigned from the Cabinet.
  • Avidar, a political independent who was very active in the movement to oust former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attacked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as no different from Netanyahu and claimed Bennett would not abide by his rotation agreement to hand power to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in 16 months.
  • Because the coalition has just a 61/59 majority in the Knesset, Avidar will now have major leverage in any future vote.

What’s next: Bennett and Lapid are expected to convene the heads of all the coalition parties in the coming days in an attempt to reach a grand bargain to reset the political agenda and stabilize the government.

Worth noting: In what was widely seen as an attempt to resolve another problem in the coalition, Lapid announced he was appointing Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi — a left-wing member of the coalition who recently rebelled and caused the government to lose an important vote — as Israel’s consul general in Shanghai, shifting her out of the Knesset.

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