No to Bennett, No to Netanyahu: Israeli Lawmaker Speaks Out on Her Resignation

In an interview with Haaretz, Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi's explains her resignation, expresses disappointment about her colleagues, and identifies who's really to blame for the collapse of Bennett's coalition

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
Lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi arriving at Channel 12 News for an interview on Thursday.
Lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi arriving at Channel 12 News for an interview on Thursday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Just over 24 hours after Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi's shock resignation seemed to sound the death knell for Naftali Bennett's government, Meretz's first female Arab lawmaker says she has no regrets.

In an interview with Haaretz, she talks about how she didn't always feel supported by her party, and points the finger at other coalition members for the government's collapse.

Following her resignation, Rinawie Zoabi says she "doesn't know what the future holds" when it comes to leaving the Knesset altogether, and that she remains undecided about whether she will vote to dissolve parliament next week.

However, Rinawie Zoabi did stress that she has no interest in seeing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu back as prime minister: "Of course, I don't want to see Netanyahu return. The alternative to the current government is far worse."

The lawmaker expressed immense disappointment in her coalition colleagues. "Going back to the coalition is not an option for me," she said. "I might put pressure on it from the outside so that the government begins taking the Palestinian issue and the demands of the Arab community seriously." She added that she had hoped that the government would "be attentive to the Arab community as well. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."

Rinawie Zoabi also pointed the finger at her own party's conduct, saying she had no support from her faction members and Meretz ministers. "I respect them, I do, but there were times when I felt like I was working alone on the things that were important to me. I wanted the party to condemn the police's conduct at Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral, but no such condemnation was issued."

She is also tired of carrying the brunt of the blame for what might be the final nail in the government's coffin. "Those people who are supposed to represent Meretz, that's what's important? To be in the government at all costs?" she said. "It astounds me every time that the Jewish-Israeli left wants us Arabs to save them from Netanyahu, but then point the finger at us and tell us 'do what we want without having your own opinion.' That's not how a true partnership works. If Netanyahu comes back, [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz and [Interior Minister Ayelet] Shaked are to blame."

On Friday, Rinawie Zoabi received a home visit from United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas.

"Mansour is a dear brother. We respect one another. He asked to come to me to iron things out," she said. "We talked about what has happened, about our frustration that the government has been moving to the right – that the coalition of partnership has turned into a very right-wing government," Rinawie Zoabi said. "He agreed with me that it is in fact very hard for them," she added, referring to the discontent among United Arab List lawmaker.

Rinawie Zoabi also said she made no demands in her Friday conversation with Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz. "I had no demands. As I wrote in the letter I addressed to the prime minister and the alternate prime minister, I reached a point where I could no longer remain in this coalition. I cannot support the government in its dealings toward the Arab public and the Palestinian issue."

Rinawie Zoabi noted that she will meet with Horowitz and Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and alternate prime minister, at the start of next week.

On Friday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made his first comment on the resignation in a Facebook post, which left his government two lawmakers shy of a majority. "We cannot give up. We have no other country," he wrote.

The prime minister said the most "Zionist thing" he has ever done was to "take responsibility in a difficult situation and form a rescue government." In his post, Bennet added that: "The future of the nation is at stake. We must fight and defeat Palestinian terrorism, and we must fight to maintain the unity of our people."

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