May 22, 2022 - World

Israeli lawmaker who quit Bennett's fragile coalition returns after pressure

Ghaida Rinawi Zoabi. Photo: Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An Israeli lawmaker who last Thursday left Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's fragile coalition, bringing it to the brink of collapse, announced on Sunday that she would rejoin the coalition.

Why it matters: The dramatic move last week left Bennett with a minority coalition of only 59 members of Knesset. With Ghaida Rinawi Zoabi's return, the coalition is back at 60 members and the opposition lost its opportunity to call an early election.

Driving the news: Zoabi, an Arab-Israeli from the left-wing Meretz party, announced on Thursday she was leaving the coalition in a letter to Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, which she sent first to reporters.

  • Several hours later Zoabi gave an interview on channel 12 on prime time and said her decision was final. "We are women - when we make a decision we don't go back," she said.
  • But in the last four days Zoabi came under huge pressure from her party members and key political players in the Arab minority in Israel who pressed her to resign from the Knesset or to return to the coalition.

Several Arab mayors joined forces in pressing Zoabi, claiming that if the government falls they won't get the budgets that were allocated according to the coalition agreement.

  • Zoabi was also warned that if the government falls it could open the way for former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government with some of the most anti-Arab politicians in the country.
  • On Sunday, Zoabi met Lapid, who is leading the center-left part of the coalition. A group of Arab mayors joined the meeting and laid out requests for more government help. 

What they're saying: "After strong pressure from Arab mayors I agreed to meet Lapid. I am aware the alternative to the current government is that the minister of police will be Itamar Ben Gvir (a Jewish supremacist lawmaker) and I want to prevent that," Zoabi said after the meeting.

  • She added she will support the coalition in order to serve the needs of the Arab society and stressed the government needs to be more attentive.
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