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Since the old citizenship law is now no longer in force and the nearly 13,000 Palestinians married to Israeli citizens can now apply to the Interior Ministry for citizenship, it will be tricky for the parties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. •