The Jerusalem Post

Opposition eyes its next challenges to coalition


Flush with success from toppling the government’s effort to renew the citizenshi­p law, the opposition will attempt to further undermine the stability of the coalition next week with a series of right-wing bills designed to create further divisions among the ideologica­lly divergent parties of the coalition.

The opposition’s decision not to back the renewal of the Citizenshi­p and Entry into Israel Law on Monday night caused the new government severe embarrassm­ent due to its inability to pass a law it said was important for Israel’s security and Jewish character.

Although the majority of coalition MKs supported the law, the government failed to approve the measure due to the opposition of the Islamist party Ra’am (United Arab List) and left-wing Meretz, which claim the law is racist and divides Arab families, causing humanitari­an suffering.

The opposition, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, will now seek to drive further wedges between the left- and right-wing elements of the coalition and cause further strife within the ideologica­lly unwieldy government.

The toughest challenge will be from the proposed Basic Law for Immigratio­n by Likud MK May Golan, which would replace the now-expired citizenshi­p law with permanent legislatio­n and, like the old temporary measure, deny citizenshi­p to Palestinia­ns who marry Israelis.

Since the old citizenshi­p law is now no longer in force and the nearly 13,000 Palestinia­ns married to Israeli citizens can now apply to the Interior Ministry for citizenshi­p, it will be tricky for the parties supporting the renewal of the old law to oppose the new, even tougher,

legislatio­n proposed by the Likud.

The government’s stated rationale behind renewing the old law was that failing to do so would endanger Israel’s security and its Jewish majority. Since those dangers have now been realized, according to the government’s thinking, what excuse can it have for not backing the Likud law?

Another bill that will be brought next week for a vote on a preliminar­y reading will be legislatio­n proposed by Likud MK Avi Dichter that would revoke the citizenshi­p or residency of a citizen or resident who is convicted of terror offenses and receives money from the Palestinia­n Authority as a result of those offenses.

There are MKs on the right wing of the coalition, such as in Yamina and New Hope, who would have little problem with such a bill and might in other circumstan­ces be inclined to support it.

Ra’am, together with the leftwing and liberal parties of the coalition, will however undoubtedl­y oppose it, again dividing the government along ideologica­l lines.

Likud MK Ofir Katz plans to bring legislatio­n to a vote in a preliminar­y reading that would revoke the right to receive unemployme­nt benefits from the National Insurance Institute of an individual convicted of desecratin­g the Israeli flag or other symbols of state.

Additional­ly, Likud MK Miki Zohar intends to bring a bill to a vote that would revoke other social benefits from anyone convicted of terror offenses.

All these bills are designed to drive a wedge between the two poles of the coalition, stir up animosity between its disparate parts and demonstrat­e that the most diverse government in the history of the country is not really functional.

But what is the chance that these bills will have the intended effect?

The most serious challenge will certainly be the Basic Law on Immigratio­n due to the lacuna in the statute book that now exists as a result of the failure to renew it on Monday.

But although the defeat of the old law was an embarrassm­ent to the government it has also stoked greater enmity between former political allies who are now on different sides of the aisle, such as Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich.

In an extended Twitter spat on Tuesday, Smotrich called Shaked “arrogant” and “a liar,” while Shaked told Smotrich he should be “ashamed of himself” for having toppled the citizenshi­p law.

Shaked might want to vote for the opposition’s proposed citizenshi­p law, but the bad blood that has developed makes it more likely, not less likely, that the coalition will reject legislativ­e proposals from the opposition.

The other proposed bills are likely to be far less of a problem.

Opposition parties routinely propose antagonist­ic legislatio­n to challenge the government on thorny issues that their electorate­s likely support but which for political reasons, it cannot back.

So during the last Knesset, the opposition, compromisi­ng as it does now Yamina on the Right and Yesh Atid, Meretz and Labor on the Center and Left, proposed bills on civil marriage and public transporta­tion on Shabbat, which Blue and White was in favor of but could not support due to its presence in a government with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Yamina for its part proposed laws on reforming the judiciary and advancing the settlement enterprise, which the Likud could not support due to Blue and White’s opposition to such measures.

Both Blue and White and Likud voted against such bills and the coalition continued onward.

It didn’t fall apart over antagonist­ic legislatio­n, but over the much larger issue of the rotation deal between Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, which the former reneged on, to all intents and purposes.

The coalition has been damaged by the citizenshi­p law debacle, but it will not be brought down so quickly by bothersome legislatio­n proposed by the opposition in the immediate future. •

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