Moran Azulay
Moran Azulay
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (L) and former coalition whip Idit Silman

Israel's state budget vote is crumbling coalition's true test

Analysis: The upcoming vote on the annual budget is going to make or break the current government, which is prepared to negotiate demands of Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi if she agrees to overturn her resignation

Moran Azulay |
Published: 05.22.22, 13:41
Although the coalition is yet to resolve the crisis brought on by the resignation of Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, many in the government believe the left-wing lawmaker will eventually overturn her decision.
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  • Senior government officials believe the next real challenge of this government is not potential deserters, but rather the upcoming vote on the state budget.
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    ג'ידא רינאווי זועבי, עידית סילמן
    ג'ידא רינאווי זועבי, עידית סילמן
    Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (L) and former coalition whip Idit Silman
    (Photo: Hadar Yoavian, Ilya Malinkov)
    The coalition needs a simple majority to pass the budget. This seemingly simple task, however, has been complicated by the resignation of former coalition whip Idit Silman, which left the government with only 60 seats in the plenum (before Zoabi’s resignation that the coalition believes can be overturned).
    In recent days, the coalition has reportedly formulated a plan to pass the budget. Under the plan, the first reading of the budget vote will be brought forward to next month - i.e. the end of June - in order to buy the coalition time for political maneuvering.
    The plan hinges on the assumption that Zoabi - who will meet with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid later in the day to present him with a series of demands - will not undermine the budget’s approval.
    This means that only Silman can sabotage the vote since she remains part of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina faction despite her resignation from the government back in April.
    According to reports, Yamina intends to expel Silman from the faction if she votes against the budget, reasoning that torpedoing such an important vote is a sufficient reason to do so. The move would bar her from running in the next election, as was done to rebellious former Yamina MK Amichai Chikli.
    The coalition believes that in order to avoid sanctions that would end her political career and aspirations in the ranks of the opposition's Likud party, Silman would instead opt to resign from the Knesset altogether, which would free a seat for the next person on the list - Yamina MK Yomtov Kalfon - who is expected to vote in favor of the budget.
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    Yair Lapid speaking during an interview in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021
    Yair Lapid speaking during an interview in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
    (Photo: AFP)
    Regardless of what Silman decides to do, discussions on the next state budget vote are already in the final stages, and the goal of the coalition leaders is to survive peacefully the summer Knesset session that wraps up in late July.
    As for Zoabi, in her upcoming meeting with Lapid - and in another scheduled meeting with her party’s chairman Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz - the Arab lawmaker is expected to secure a series of promises vis-à-vis budgets to the Arab sector.
    Zoabi is also expected to demand that she receives credit for actions taken by the Ra’am party to better the Arab sector.
    Meanwhile, demonstrators who arrived Saturday night to Zoabi's house in northern Israel with the demand she overturn her resignation were greeted amicably by the MK, who proceeded to hand them candies before announcing her decision “is final".
    "We will now see how we can prevent a situation where [former premier and current opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu] will return to power,” said Rinawie Zoabi to the protesters. “I want the government to understand that it needs to be fair with the Arab society."
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    The plenum ahead of the swearing in ceremony for the 24th Knesset
    The plenum ahead of the swearing in ceremony for the 24th Knesset
    The Knesset plenum
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkiewicz)
    Meretz MK Mossi Raz, meanwhile, announced that he was withdrawing from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation his proposal to amend the controversial Nation-State Law” - which states that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people” - due to “opposition from the right-wing sector of the coalition".
    “We are committed to the stability of the government and its continued successful functioning in the coming years,” Raz added.
    On Monday, the coalition and opposition will face off in the plenum regarding the law which seeks to subsidize 60% of academic tuition for discharged IDF fighters.
    The coalition apparently has no majority in the law, in light of Silman’s resignation, while the opposition refuses to support the law.
    Netanyahu’s Likud, meanwhile, announced that it would support the law only if it funded 100% of the tuition - a subsidization rate that was merely a pie in the sky even during the Likud’s 12 years in power.
    The coalition believes that overthrowing a bill that benefits IDF veterans will only serve to embarrass the Likud. Therefore, it intends to bring the bill to a vote on Monday and demand a recorded vote - meaning that each Likud member who opposes the bill will be forced to say so vocally and publicly.

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