'Significant Progress' in Talks to Bring Back Lawmaker Who Deserted Israeli Coalition, Gov't Source Says

Rinawie Zoabi's resignation leaves Bennett's government with just 59 seats, putting Israel at risk for a fifth round of elections in just three years

MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, Israel’s new consul general-designate in Shanghai, in her home in Nof Hagalil in 2021.
MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, Israel’s new consul general-designate in Shanghai, in her home in Nof Hagalil in 2021.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

A government source said Saturday that "significant progress" has been made in talks to persuade Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to reverse her resignation from Israel's coalition, after the Meretz lawmaker's decision seemed to sound the death knell for the minority government.

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"Tomorrow, everything will be behind us," said the source, claiming Zoabi will neither leave the Knesset nor the coalition.

Rinawie Zoabi is slated to meet with Yair Lapid, the alternate prime minister and foreign minister, and other officials on Sunday in order to reach an understanding that would allow her to stay in the coalition.

"The government is strong and will continue to be strong," noted the source, adding that the coalition was preparing to hold a vote on the state budget – indicating confidence that Zoabi will reverse her resignation and the coalition will hold.

Over the weekend, coalition members attempted to persuade Rinawie Zoabi to retract her statements. A source told Haaretz that, in return, the members have offered to provide economic benefits to the Arab community, including transferring funds for the construction of new wards in hospitals in Nazareth.

Rinawie Zoabi has demanded to transfer these funds over the past months, but her requests were dismissed. "She wants credit for certain issues, as well as attention, so we will give it to her and this crisis will be over," a source familiar with the talks said.

Zoabi was supposed to be interviewed on Israeli television on Saturday evening, but cancelled her appearance. According to sources, her withdrawal signals an intention to announce her return to the coalition in the coming days.

Later on Saturday, Zoabi came out of her home to address a demonstration against her decision: "I know how important democracy and the future of the country is for all of us. I know that you all understand my personal difficulty, like the personal difficulties facing each and every one of you, and I promise that together we will find a solution to the crisis that exists today."

In her resignation letter on Thursday, Rinawie Zoabi wrote that she had joined the coalition in hopes that Arabs and Jews working together might help bring about "a new path of equality and respect," but that coalition leaders had chosen to take "hawkish, hard-line and right-wing positions."

She also cited violence at the Temple Mount and the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as driving the "moral decision."

Her move leaves the coalition with just 59 seats, two shy of a majority, after Idit Silman of Bennett's Yamina party resigned in early April.

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