Bennett warns coalition will collapse within a week or two unless MPs put an end to the rebellion

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned on Monday that his faltering coalition will completely collapse in a week or two if the growing number of renegade MPs within the ruling bloc fails to fully cooperate with the alliance again.

Bennett made the remarks in the Knesset plenum after opposition lawmakers managed to collect 40 signatures, forcing the premier to appear for a symbolic hearing on his performance.

The prime minister delivered his speech about an hour after another member of his own party announced he would leave the coalition, leaving it with a minority of 59 MPs in the Knesset.

“There are coalition members who have not yet internalized the importance of the hour,” Bennett said on the first anniversary of the establishment of his government. “I ask the coalition members who are determined to vote against the government, we have a week or two to clear things up and then we can go on for a long time. If not, then we can’t [continue].

“The choice today is between chaos and stability, between paralysis and growth,” said Bennett, recalling that he agreed to form a coalition with many of his left-wing rivals only after former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly failed to put together a coalition, despite having sent Israel into a whirlwind of four consecutive elections and is ready to send the country to a fifth parliamentary vote.

Bennett highlighted his government’s policy towards the Gaza Strip, which he says has been responsible for what has been the quietest time for southern residents in years. He likened it to the 2021 Gaza War during Netanyahu’s final days in office, which also coincided with riots in Arab-Jewish cities across the country.

View of the barrier along the border between Israel and Gaza on December 8, 2021. (Flash90)

The premier has continued to criticize Netanyahu and the opposition for their conduct over the past year. “You urge around the clock instead of fighting the enemy,” Bennett said, particularly considering the way Likud has criticized its collaboration with the Islamist Ra’am party, the first independent Arab party to join. a ruling coalition in the history of Israel.

“I saw [Likud] MK Israel Katz screaming [Ra’am chair] Mansour Abbas. He said Abbas was like [Hamas leader] Yahya Sinwar, ”Bennett continued, accusing Katz of ignoring the fact that Netanyahu himself had secretly hosted Abbas several times at his official residence in an attempt to persuade Ra’am’s president to join a right-wing Likud-led coalition.

As the prospects for such a coalition seemed to grow in the spring of 2021, the Likud media was cited by the media who gradually turned to Abbas, praising him for his willingness to condemn the terrorist attacks against Israelis and focus on civilian issues. rather than on the Palestinian question. But they quickly turned to Ra’am after the party joined Bennett’s coalition last June, regularly starting to call party members “supporters of terror”.

Bennett, in his plenary address, expressed pride in his collaboration with Abbas. “I met Mansour Abbas as a man,” he said. “I’m not ashamed.”

He then underlined his government’s decision to pass the march of religious nationalists for the Jerusalem flag of the day through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim quarter of the Old City, despite international pressure to redirect the demonstration to a seemingly less provocative route. . The government also managed to weather the latest pandemic waves without imposing blockades, approved a budget for the first time in three years, raised soldiers’ salaries and helped reduce crime in Arab communities by 40%, he said. Bennett.

He accused Netanyahu of operating a “poison machine” and admitted that his government had failed to thwart it enough to prevent the defection of Yamina MK Idit Silman. The former coalition whip announced his resignation from the government bloc in April, reducing his size to just 60 MPs in the Knesset.

Bennett then recalled how Netanyahu had warned on the day the government was formed that he would not be able to oppose the Biden administration to prevent the reopening of a US consulate in Jerusalem or the signing of a nuclear deal. Both of these predictions have so far proved false.

Jews taking part in the Flag March pass through the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem on May 29, 2022, when Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

Speaking immediately after Bennett, Netanyahu mocked his successor for giving himself such good grades when most of the premier’s staff had abandoned him. Many of Bennett’s advisers stepped down last month as the coalition seemed nearing its end.

“You are not fighting for the country. You’re just fighting for your place, ”Netanyahu said, once again lashing out at Bennett for his collaboration with Ra’am and Abbas.

“Because you … Bennett, [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid and Abbas are not fighting for our country, the citizens of Israel fear for their fate, “Netanyahu continued, pointing out the recent wave of terror and rising costs.

The former prime minister dismissed the notion that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the reason for the current economic crisis, arguing that he managed to steer the country away from a similar decline when global markets were faltering.

“Your blackmail and protectionist government is crumbling. His days are numbered, “Netanyahu said, accusing Bennett of” stealing credit “for his previous policies that preceded the year of quiet at the Gaza border.

He mocked Bennett’s recent appeal to the “silent Zionist majority” to support his government, saying that the Israelis are not really keeping quiet and that they want Yamina’s leader “to come home”.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset on June 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90)

The session ended with a symbolic vote on Bennett’s responses to opposition criticism. With not all of its remaining 59 members present, the coalition lacked a majority, prompting the coalition MPs to leave the plenum before the count was held. The vote was a symbolic 54-0, in favor of the opposition.

The far more concrete blow to the coalition had come hours earlier, however, when Orbach, of Bennett’s Yamina party, announced his resignation.

Orbach, in a statement, accused “extremist and anti-Zionist elements”, such as Arab parliamentarians Mazen Ghanaim (Ra’am) and Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz), of having dragged the coalition “in problematic directions” and of “holding it hostage . “

While Orbach, Bennett’s longtime ally, said the coalition failed in its core mission of “raising [Israelis’] spirits, “he made clear he would not vote in the next week to disperse the Knesset and start early elections. Instead, he vowed to work to form an alternative coalition with a” patriotic spirit “in the existing parliament – a tall order given that the Knesset looks like still contain the majority of MPs who refuse to join a coalition with Netanyahu.