Israeli Government Poised to Collapse After Bennett’s Longtime Adviser Becomes Third to Quit
22:38 GMT 23.05.2022 (Updated: 22:41 GMT 23.05.2022)
© YouTube/News NightPrime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks about Israeli couple arrested in Turkey for snapping, sharing photos of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s home.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s longtime adviser, Tal Gan-Zvi, announced he was stepping down as the prime minister’s chief of staff in the coming weeks.
“I had the privilege over the past year to work with a true public servant for whom Israel’s well-being was and remains always at the front of his mind,” Gan-Zvi, 41, said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel.
He is the third to leave Bennett’s government in as many weeks, after Shimrit Meir, a senior foreign affairs adviser, said she would also quit, allegedly for personal reasons. However, she reportedly clashed with other government figures, including Gan-Zvi, over policy.
According to Israeli media, Meir was a political moderate who encouraged Bennett to join the coalition being pieced together last year by now-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and has been a moderating influence on Bennett, who leads the right-wing Yamina party.
MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, an Arab from the left-wing Meretz party who in February was appointed consul-general in Shanghai, China, also resigned on Thursday. However, her departure wasn’t due to factional infighting in the alliance, but rather the government’s approval of a provocative Flag March on Jerusalem Day through the city’s Muslim Quarter being led by Lehava, a far-right group that supports the ethnic cleansing of all Arabs from Israeli-controlled territory.
“The last month, the month of Ramadan, has been unbearable,” she wrote on Twitter, referring to attacks by Israeli police and individuals against Palestinian Muslim and Christian worshippers.
“The sights that came from the Temple Mount of violent policemen in front of a crowd of worshipers, the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, brought me to only one personal conclusion: no more,” she added.
Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera reporter who Palestinians and human rights groups say was shot by an Israeli soldier earlier this month, had her funeral attacked by Israeli police, who were filmed beating the casket pallbearers. Israeli police claimed they had been attacked with rocks by the mourners. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Thursday they would not open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s death.
However, Zoabi’s departure is more politically dangerous, since it unbalances the Knesset, leaving Bennett’s government with a minority of 59 seats. She has not yet announced the intention of joining the opposition, which is led by Bennett’s predecessor and longtime rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, but if she did, her vote could dissolve the government.
The hodge-podge of left, centrist, and right-wing parties in the ruling coalition was assembled in late May and early June 2021 by Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, when then-Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to form a government following elections. As part of the deal to win over Yamina, Lapid reached an agreement for Bennett to lead the government for two years and Lapid to serve as foreign minister before the two would trade positions. However, with the same government including an Islamist Arab party, various left-wing parties, and the right-wing Yamina, few observers expected the coalition to be held together by anything except a desire to keep Netanyahu out of power.
At times, even Bennett himself has threatened to destroy it: just days before Meir announced her departure, the prime minister threatened to leave Lapid’s alliance if a massive new packet of housing construction in the West Bank wasn’t approved.