Israel's Coalition Defiant, Blames 'Bibi's Own Interests' After Major Defeat

Bennett blames Likud, which 'will see the country burn for Bibi's own interests,' while the opposition believes that the failure to extend Israeli law to the West Bank augurs the imminent fall of the coalition

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Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Lapid, and Defense Minister Gantz in the Knesset for West Bank regulation extension vote on Monday.
Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Lapid, and Defense Minister Gantz in the Knesset for West Bank regulation extension vote on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's coalition stood firm about the prospects of its survival, after two lawmakers broke rank to topple regulations renewing Israeli law in the West Bank in a nighttime vote on Monday.

In the wake of the major defeat, Prime Minister Bennett pointed the blame at opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Arab lawmakers who have joined forces with the Likud and said: "Likud will see the country burn for Bibi's own interests," calling the opposition leader by his nickname.

Caught in the Knesset corridors by journalists on Tuesday, Bennett was asked if the government has reached the end of the line: "Absolutely not," he responded.

The Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also doubled down, saying he will "do everything that needs to be done for this government to hold out. I believe in this government. I have no doubts about it. It was a difficult night."

In a pointed rebuke at rebels, he added: "People need to decide. Whoever doesn't want to live with this coalition – leave. Whoever can – commit."

Health Minister and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz voiced a similar sentiment saying that his party is committed to keep Netanyahu out of office and prevent an election. Horowitz added that "anyone who cannot take the difficulties, can resign from his position."

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."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called on all Knesset members to act responsibly and to "put Israel before everything," adding "we have less than a month to make sure the West Bank doesn't turn into the Wild West because of political interests."

United Arab List leader and coalition member Mansour Abbas, who was also absent from the vote, said that "every coalition has its challenges, but it's important for us to keep going."

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.

Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who announced her resignation from the government in mid-May, but withdrew it soon after, voted against the bill. 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."

Meretz lawmaker and veteran anti-occupation activist Mossi Raz said that Rinawie Zoabi has a "right to vote how she pleases" and dismissed criticism of his party colleague as "impudent." However, he did say that party politics is "a team game," and that he would've resigned from the Knesset if he could not back the government in good conscience. Raz noted that the government is doing "more problematic things than this, because this is a preservation of the status quo."

UAL lawmaker Mazen Ghanayim also voted against the bill, saying before the vote: “It makes a difference whether a law passes with the right’s votes … or whether it passes with the votes of Arab MKs, including my own.”

On the opposition side, right-wing lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich criticized the government for failing to pass the bill, despite having voted against it, and 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."

The coalition lost another vote overnight, failing to reappoint Yamina lawmaker Matan Kahana as Religious Services Minister, and the vote was framed as a no-confidence vote in the government.

Although Idit Silman – whose abrupt resignation from the coalition in April deprived it of its slim majority – abstained in the vote on the West Bank regulations, she voted against her Yamina colleague's reappointment.

Opposition members praised her after the votes, with opposition leader Netanyahu dubbing her "a champion," while Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar said that "this is how you overthrow a government."

Silman's ex-coalition partners, however, were far from pleased, with Kahana saying that her actions proved "she is not a part of the Yamina faction."

Due to its framing as a no-confidence vote, the coalition may be able to declare Silman as a defector, barring her from joining up with an existing party in the next round of elections. The coalition is also weighing taking further sanctions against her, stripping her of her position as the head of the Knesset's health committee.

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