Left-wing Leader Expresses Optimism After Bennett's Coalition Loses Majority

Nitzan Horowitz and Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi – who resigned and left the government without a majority – agree on the importance of preserving the current coalition, a source says

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Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz in Jerusalem, last year.
Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz in Jerusalem, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz expressed optimism Friday after speaking with party colleague Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who quit the governing coalition the previous day, leaving it without a majority.

The two had a lengthy phone conversation and agreed on the importance of preserving the current coalition, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The talk was "optimistic and things look less harsh than they did yesterday," the source added.

Speaking in an interview with Kan Bet radio earlier on Friday, Rinawie Zoabi said she made it clear to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that her decision to leave the coalition is final, and that she is no longer interested in the diplomatic appointment offered to her by Lapid.

The two spoke Thursday night, hours after she announced her decision to leave the coalition, and are expected to speak again next week.

Also on Friday, coalition member and United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas was photographed outside her home in Nof Hagalil.

“We had a good conversation. Lapid is an honest man who's in an uncomfortable situation, but I made clear my desire to stick with the decision to quit the coalition. He asked if I was interested in submitting my candidacy to be the consul general in Shanghai, and I said that I'm not.”

MK Mansour Abbas, head of the United Arab List, Israel, on Friday.

Rinawie Zoabi also said she told Lapid she wasn’t going to automatically vote against the coalition, and that she would consider each bill individually.

“Some laws are good for the Arab public,” she said. When asked whether she will vote in favor of dispersing the Knesset, she said she will consider it and make a decision on Wednesday.

Rinawie Zoabi acknowledged that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is in a quandary, but asserted that she expected him to strive to preserve his relations with the coalition’s leftist wing. “He entered a partnership of left and right, and he should have understood that earlier,” she said.

Addressing Rinawie Zoabi’s departure, Lapid wrote on Facebook: “This government is the right thing for the state of Israel and the people of Israel. We have no intention of caving in or giving up [on the government]. We have no intention of letting Netanyahu or [far-right lawmaker Itamar] Ben-Gvir destroy the country.

"We will keep doing what we have been doing: We will sit with whomever we need to, and we will fix what needs to be fixed,” Lapid wrote.

Meretz officials who spoke with Rinawie Zoabi said they got the impression she won’t vote to bring down the government.

In her resignation letter to Bennett and Lapid, Rinawie Zoabi wrote that “coalition leaders have preferred to preserve and strengthen its right wing in recent months out of narrow political considerations.”

She stated that the events of the past month – among them the violence at the Temple Mount and the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem “were too hard to bear.” She noted, “I cannot continue to support a coalition that disgracefully harasses the society I come from.”

It’s doubtful whether her departure will enable opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to bring down the government with a no-confidence vote because there is no majority supporting his candidacy to become prime minister.

Still, if the opposition introduces a bill to dissolve the Knesset, Rinawie Zoabi's vote could send Israel into a fifth election in three years.

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