Israel's ruling coalition becomes minority after Arab lawmaker resigns

by IANS |

Jerusalem, May 20 (IANS) Israel's governing coalition became a minority in Knesset or the parliament, after an Israeli-Arab lawmaker announced her resignation.

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab with the liberal Meretz party, handed in her resignation letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday, leaving his eight-party coalition with only 59 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

In the letter, the lawmaker said she was quitting because Bennett's government has taken a string of "hawkish and right-wing policies" over the flashpoint holy site of Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, and other issues relating to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Her departure, less than a year after the inauguration of the new government, threw Bennett's coalition into disarray and made it more difficult for the embattled Prime Minister to keep his grip on power, Xinhua news agency reported.

The right-wing Likud party, headed by Bennett's main rival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already announced on Wednesday its plans to bring a no-confidence motion to parliament.

If such a motion passes in four rounds of votes, a procedure that might take weeks, the Knesset will be dissolved, sending Israelis to elections for the fifth time in three years.

The ruling coalition has already lost its slim majority on April 6, when Idit Silman, a lawmaker with the Yamina party, quit over a religious dispute, placing the coalition on 60 seats in the parliament.

Bennett's cross-partisan coalition -- formed with Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party -- is composed of a mixture of pro-settler nationalists, liberals and Islamists, united only with the goal of ousting Netanyahu, who is facing a criminal trial over corruption charges.

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