Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi announced on Sunday that she would resume supporting the governing coalition. She did so after meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and several mayors. She thereby postponed, at least temporarily, the prospect of new elections that might well bring the national inciter, Benjamin Netanyahu, back to the Prime Minister’s Office.
We shouldn’t downplay the threat posed by a return to power by Netanyahu, a criminal defendant who caused great damage to the fabric of Israeli life, undermined its democratic institutions, eroded its values and is willing to cooperate with Kahanists to regain power. But this threat should not obscure the substance of Rinawie Zoabi’s arguments, which deserve serious attention. Not every abomination can be koshered by citing Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
In the letter she sent the leaders of the coalition parties, Rinawie Zoabi said the events of the past month, including the clashes on the Temple Mount and police conduct at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, were “more than I could bear.” She added that she cannot continue supporting a coalition “that harasses my community in a shameful manner.”
The scenes at Abu Akleh’s funeral were indeed terrible, and exposed the ugly face of the occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every Jewish citizen who was shocked by the photos can only imagine how Arab citizens felt. It’s not to be taken for granted that someone would agree to be a partner in a government under whose leadership such an event happens.
From an ideological perspective as well, this “government of change” is a right-wing government. It passed the Citizenship Law; it supports the settlement enterprise and backs settler violence; a week after police saw fit to remove Palestinian flags at Abu Akleh’s funeral, it chose to defend, at the order of Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Jews’ right to provoke Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate with their ugly Flag March.
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It’s clear that the government of change is a government of compromises, but this requires ideological concessions from both sides of the political map, not just the left. The government’s left wing gives the impression of having conceded in advance. Rinawie Zoabi felt, and rightly, that these concessions have been made on the backs of the Palestinians and with excessive consideration for the government’s right wing, whose members are threatening to quit. If Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants to preserve this government of change, he must understand that the fact that leaders of the Labor and Meretz parties haven’t uttered a peep at his government’s right-wing character doesn’t guarantee that members of those parties won’t get fed up with its one-sidedness and eventually seek to topple it. Rinawie Zoabi’s brief departure was a warning.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.