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May 22, 2022 6:14 pm
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Arab Lawmaker Returns to Israel’s Governing Coalition, Averting New Elections

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

A “Meretz” party election campaign banner is seen behind traffic lights ahead of the March 23 ballot in the northern Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth March 13, 2021. Picture taken March 13, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Arab lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi on Sunday announced her comeback to support Israel’s governing coalition, averting the threat of new elections.

MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the left-wing Meretz party announced her departure Thursday, turning Israel’s ruling coalition into minority, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett controlling 59 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. The move came after right-wing Yamina party MK Idit Silman last month walked out on Bennett’s coalition, defecting to the opposition.

Following a lengthy meeting Sunday with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and eight Arab mayors, Rinawie Zoabi agreed to retract her decision and back the governing coalition to better serve the “needs of Arab society.”

Rinawie Zoabi said she was keen to prevent the prospect of far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir serving as internal security minister, under the alternative to the current government.

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“Since I am in the Knesset to serve the local authorities and bring about achievements for the needs of Arab society, I will support the coalition,” Rinawie Zoabi said in a joint statement with Lapid. “But I also want the government to be true and attentive to Arab society and its needs in health, education, housing, and infrastructure.”

Lapid said he welcomed the Meretz lawmaker back into the fold after an “open” dialogue about the “real needs” of Arab society with her and local Arab authorities.

“We have put this debate behind us and are returning to government work,” Lapid commented.

“There is a silver lining in all of this — the coalition will come out strengthened from the crisis,” Regional Cooperation Minister and fellow Meretz MK Esawi Frej tweeted after the meeting. “We will continue to work for the benefit of Arab society and for the benefit of Israeli society as a whole.”

Earlier on Sunday, Bennett expressed confidence saying that he was “certain that if we all continue to show goodwill, the government will overcome any crisis.”

“We must put the good of the country ahead of narrow sectorial interests,” Bennett said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “We must all understand that nobody will be 100 percent satisfied. This is collective, not individual, work.”

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