Arab MP returns to Israeli coalition

Ghaida Zoabi of the Meretz party left the coalition last week after a range of grievances against the government

Ghaida Zoabi attends a session in the Knesset in November 2021. AFP
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Ghaida Zoabi, an Arab-Israeli politician who quit the governing coalition last week after grievances including police aggression at an Al Jazeera reporter's funeral, rejoined the government on Sunday.

Her decision to depart from the coalition briefly left the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with only 59 out of 120 seats in the Knesset.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who was the main person to assemble the coalition after elections last year, said Ms Zoabi was now back in the alliance.

"I am happy that Ghaida Zoabi has returned to the coalition," Mr Lapid tweeted.

"We have put aside our differences and together we are resuming the work of the government."

The nearly one-year-old Bennett government has been regarded as vulnerable from its inception.

It counts on support from parties ranging from the Jewish right and Israeli doves to an Arab Muslim party.

It lost its single-seat Knesset majority last month when a member of Mr Bennett's religious, nationalist Yamina party left.

Idit Silman said she could not "take part in harming the Jewish identity of Israel", after the Health Ministry instructed hospitals to allow leavened bread products on to their premises during the Passover holiday.

Ms Zoabi last week linked her departure to unrest and tension at Al Aqsa Mosque compound and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, and "the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh".

Abu Akleh, a veteran reporter, was shot dead during an Israeli army raid in the West Bank last week.

In a move that has sparked international outrage, baton-wielding Israeli police beat several pallbearers as they carried her coffin out of a hospital before her burial.

Addressing the Cabinet earlier on Sunday, Mr Bennett said his government's ideological divergence was an asset.

"I think that if those from the left feel that the government is too right-wing, and those from the right feel that the government is too left-wing, this is a sign that the government is in a good place in the middle — a good government that gets things done," he said.

Updated: May 22, 2022, 9:54 PM