The defection of a key lawmaker has left PM Naftali Bennett’s government holding fewer than half of parliamentary seats
Israel might be in the midst of its fifth election within three years, as signs are emerging that the ruling coalition under Prime Minister Naftali Bennet is slipping away and losing control.
Nir Orbach (longtime Bennett ally) announced that on Monday he was leaving the ruling legislative bloc. “extremist, anti-Zionist elements,” such as United Arab List (Ra’am) party member Mazen Ghanaim and left-wing Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. Orbach’s move left Bennett’s diverse coalition with just 59 seats in the 120-member Knesset, two seats short of a majority.
Bennett admitted Monday to the Knesset that his government could collapse. “a week or two”Except defectors are allowed to rejoin the fold. Orbach became the third member of Bennett’s conservative Yamina party to quit the ruling bloc.
“One after another, they’re abandoning the sinking ship,” former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his successor. “Your government of extortion and protection is falling apart.”
The shakeup came exactly one year after Bennett swept to power by forming Israel’s most diverse coalition government in history. Bennett brought together political parties from all walks of the spectrum including leftists and Arabs.
The group’s tenuous grip on power was evidenced by the failure last week to pass a bill that would extend Israeli legal rights to settlers in the occupied West Bank. Zoabi and Ghanaim were two of the legislators who opposed the bill.
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Netanyahu is seeking to return power after he was accused of corruption. He ruled for 12 years and set a new record. His Likud party holds the largest number of Knesset seats – over four times as many as Yamina, in fact – but it’s unlikely to win an outright majority in the next election, and lawmakers from other parties are reportedly reluctant to join Netanyahu in a new ruling coalition. Likud has 29 parliament seats.
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