Meretz Lawmaker Named Israel’s Consul in Shanghai After Accusations of 'Undermining' Coalition

Sources say appointment of Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi – the first Arab woman on the senior diplomatic job – is meant to ensure coalition's stability after she votes against a government-sponsored bill

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi at the Knesset, last year.
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi at the Knesset, last year.Credit: Knesset
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi will be appointed Israel’s consul-general in Shanghai, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Tuesday.

“It’s a great privilege to be the first Arab woman in such a senior diplomatic position,” Rinawie Zoabi said. “I’m happy I’ll be able to contribute to the important task of developing closer economic, trade and cultural cooperation with one of Israel’s most significant global economic partners from Israel’s consulate in Shanghai, an important nerve center of the global economy.”

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But political sources said she is effectively being ousted from the Knesset in an effort to stabilize the governing coalition.

“Lapid took action to improve the chances of making it to the rotation and reduce the risks along the way,” a source involved in the decision said, referring to the date in mid-2023 when, under the coalition agreement, Lapid will replace Naftali Bennett as prime minister.

“This move was a win-win for Lapid,” another source said. “He promoted an Arab woman to a senior diplomatic post, and he also got a worthy new MK in the Knesset, Kati Piasecki, who will strengthen the coalition instead of undermining it.”

Last month, Rinawie Zoabi voted against a government-sponsored bill on drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students in protest of the coalition’s advancement of a bill restricting family unification for Palestinians married to Israelis and of and the Jewish National Fund’s tree-planting in the Negev. As a result, the vote was tied, which means the bill didn’t pass (though it did pass when it was brought up for a vote again two weeks later).

Meretz sources said that due to her behavior, she realized she had no chance of making it onto the party’s slate again in the next election. Consequently, “she herself was looking for a way out,” one said.

A few weeks ago, therefore, she met with Lapid to discuss the possibility of a foreign service job.

Currently, Rinawie Zoabi is a deputy Knesset speaker and serves on both the Knesset Finance Committee and the Knesset’s Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs. Before becoming an MK, she founded and ran Injaz, the Center for Professional Arab Local Governance.

Lapid said she will enter the consul’s job “with a wealth of managerial experience and a varied and impressive economic and public background. I wish her success and am certain she’ll lead Israel’s consulate in Shanghai to new and important achievements.”

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