Bennett to Meet With Party Heads Ahead of Divisive West Bank Vote

The meeting, which will address a vote on renewing regulations that apply Israeli law to Jewish residents of the West Bank, comes amid reports that a coalition lawmaker is in talks to establish an alternative government

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, last Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, last Sunday.Credit: POOL/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will convene a meeting on Wednesday with the heads of parties in the coalition to address a divisive vote on renewing the regulation that makes Israeli citizens in the West Bank subject to Israeli law.

The meeting comes amid reports that Housing Minister Zeev Elkin of the New Hope party is negotiating with Yaakov Atrakchi, a close associate of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, on the establishment of an alternative government in the present Knesset session in the event the government falls, sources said.

The talks were first reported on Wednesday by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Both New Hope and Likud have denied the reports. For now, the talks between Elkin and Atrakchi are “not serious,” but an open channel of communication does exist between the two sides, said a number of politicians.

Sources close to Bennett said the meeting is not meant to deal with the tensions between parties or the aforementioned reports — but is being convened to address recent issues including the Emergency Regulations vote, and because party heads have not met this week and are not expected to meet next week due to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

Justice Minister and the chairman of the New Hope party, Gideon Sa’ar, plans on leveraging reports of such meetings to advance Knesset approval of the Emergency Regulations, which is set to be discussed in Wednesday's meeting.

Sa'ar said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he has made it clear to ministers and coalition party heads that the government has "the elementary responsibility" to pass the Emergency Regulations that will apply Israeli law to Jewish residents of the West Bank "more than any other law that has been legislated in the Knesset."

“A member of the coalition who does not vote in favor of the law is saying in practice – 'I don’t want this government and coalition to exist'. It is a political act and is not related just to this law. Next week will be the test – whether the coalition wants to exist or not,” Sa’ar added.

The regulations will expire at the end of June and a vote on the law in the Knesset is planned for Monday, after it was postponed from last Monday.

The law: “Emergency Regulations – Judea and Samaria, Jurisdiction and Legal Aid,” which was first enacted in 1967 and extended periodically, is due to expire at the end of June.

Sa’ar seeks to extend it for another five years. The regulations empower Israeli courts to judge Israeli citizens who have committed crimes in the West Bank and for Israeli law enforcement authorities to prosecute and make arrests in the West Bank.

If the regulations are not extended, from July Israelis who commit crimes in the West Bank will be brought before Israeli military courts and could serve their sentences in the West Bank. In addition, the Israel Police will no longer be able to investigate suspected crimes committed by Israelis in the West Bank, nor of those who committed crimes inside Israel and fled to the West Bank.

If the regulations expire, Israelis living in the West Bank will most likely no longer have the right to national health insurance, membership in the Israel Bar Association or enjoy other rights and privileges they are entitled to under Israeli law. It would also have consequences on the entry to Israel, military conscription, taxation, the population registry, adopting children and many other matters.

In addition, the Israel Tax Authority, collection and enforcement authorities and other Israeli government bodies will no longer be authorized to act inside the West Bank.

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