In Blow to Israel's Coalition, Vote on Divisive West Bank Bill Fails to Pass

Two members of Bennett’s coalition break rank and vote against extending 'emergency' regulations that apply Israeli law to the West Bank

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Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's coalition failed to pass on Monday a bill extending regulations that apply Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank, with 58 lawmakers voting against the legislation and 52 backing it.

The bill was meant to extend "emergency" regulations that have been in effect since 1967, and since then ratified every five years.

The governing coalition can try to bring up the legislation for another vote until July 1, after which it will expire.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The government considered making the vote a confidence motion to force all of United Arab List’s lawmakers and Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to back the bill. Eventually, the legislation went up for a regular vote.

The coalition had decided not to let Rinawie Zoabi rack up any significant political achievements, in the hopes of persuading her to resign from the Knesset, government sources said. They added this decision stems from her behavior in recent weeks and her repeated threats not to vote with the rest of the coalition, including on extending these regulations.

MK Idit Silman at the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Lawmaker Idit Silman – whose abrupt resignation from the coalition in April deprived it of its slim majority – was absent from the vote, while the United Arab List's Mazen Ghanayim and Rinawie Zoabi voted against the legislation.

Rinawie Zoabi later said she voted against the bill since "It's my duty to be on the right side of history by delegitimizing the occupation and supporting the basic right of the Palestinian people in establishing a country alongside the state of Israel."

If the measure expires at the end of June, Israelis who commit crimes in the West Bank will be brought before Israeli military courts and serve time 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.

Furthermore, Israelis living in the West Bank will likely no longer have the right to government insurance, to membership in the Israel Bar Association or enjoy other rights and privileges they are entitled to by Israeli law. The failure to extend the regulations would also have consequences on entry to Israel, military conscription, taxation, the population registry, adopting children and other matters.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's Yamina party released a statement saying that religious and Arab lawmakers have joined forces against West Bank residents, adding that "the Likud will see the country burn for Bibi's own interests," calling opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

Commenting on the failure to pass the vote, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: "We have less than a month to make sure the West Bank doesn't turn into the Wild West because of political interests," calling on all Knesset members to act responsibly and to "put Israel before everything."

United Arab List leader and coalition member Mansour Abbas, who was also absent from the vote, said "every coalition has its challenges but it's important for us to keep going." "There's a good chance that the government won't fall, it's too early to call it a failed experiment," he added.

Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted that while Netanyahu has "forsaken" the settlers, the coalition will continue to support them "and will do anything in our power to pass the law next week."

Right-wing lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich said: "This government proved tonight once again that it leans on anti-Zionists and that it can't care for the most basic needs and values of Israeli citizens."

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