Arab party 'suspends' itself from Israeli govt over clashes

AFP , Sunday 17 Apr 2022

The Arab-Israeli Raam party on Sunday "suspended" its participation in the coalition government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, over violence centred on Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound.

Occupied West Bank, Palestine
A young Palestinian boy speaks to Israeli border police in Jerusalem s Old City, on April 17, 2022. AFP

Bennett took office last June after painstaking efforts to cobble together a coalition able to topple Israel's longest-serving premier Benjamin Netanyahu, creating a razor-thin majority of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

But the government lost that majority earlier this month when a hard-right Knesset member quit over a government decision to authorise the distribution of leavened bread in hospitals during Passover, in line with a recent supreme court ruling reversing years of prohibition.

The coalition, a mix of left-wing, hardline Jewish nationalist and religious parties as well as Raam, has both deep ideological divides. It now has 60 seats -- the same as the opposition.

On Sunday evening, Raam -- which has four seats in Bennett's coalition -- said it was "suspending" its support, two days after clashes between police and Palestinian demonstrators in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound left 150 people wounded.

"If the government continues its steps against the people of Jerusalem... we will resign as a bloc," it said in a statement.

The party's withdrawal from Bennett's administration will not immediately impact the government, as the Knesset is in recess until May 5.

Sources told AFP that Bennett would seek to calm the situation.

Bennett's coalition can rule with 60 seats, although with difficulty in passing new legislation.

But if another member leaves the coalition, the Knesset could hold a vote of no confidence and lead Israel back to the polls for a fifth parliamentary election in four years.

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