Representatives of the Joint Arab List have told Alternative Prime Minister Yair Lapid that they “don’t want to topple the government so that Netanyahu would come up with a government of 65 MKs,” Kan 11 News reported Thursday night. The Arab politicians assured Lapid they want a deal that would pave the way for their support in the coming November vote on the budget.
Should the Lapid-Bennet government fail to pass a budget with 140 days after its establishment, the Knesset would be dissolved and the country would go to yet another election – and the Arab List is concerned that the right-wing bloc might be able to exploit this failure to attract new voters.
Lapid met with members of the Joint Arab List in recent days and asked for their support for the budget law which is being worked on. The Arabs told him they would convene next week, during the Feast of the Sacrifice, to formulate a list of demands in exchange for their support.
The coalition has been losing some manor votes to the other side this week, most notably the Dayanim bill that was rejected in a 59-59 tie. The embarrassing part was that Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) cast his vote by mistake for the opposition.
The Dayanim Law is intended to increase the size of the committee for selecting expert halachic judges from 11 to 13 members by adding another minister and a female rabbinic advocate. The change would have resulted in a total of three ministers and two female rabbinical advocates. The Haredi parties celebrated this failure as a miracle from Heaven. The coalition may decide to drop the bill for now to fight other battles in a Knesset that’s rapidly reaching its summer break.
Another major disappointment this week was the coalition’s failure to pass a law legalizing the private consumption of marijuana. The bill was taken down before the vote when Ra’am declared it would vote against it.
The amounts that the Arab sector will receive under the coalition agreement with Ra’am are very high, but in reality, they are much lower than what has been published, according to Calcalist (ממשלת בנט־לפיד רוצה לאשר תקציב דו־שנתי בתוך 140 יום). For example, the five-year plan for the economic development of Arab society is expected to stand at NIS 30 billion ($9.165 billion), but only 50% will be new budgets and the rest will be pooled from existing sources.
The most evasive clause in the coalition agreement with Ra’am is the promise of NIS 20 billion ($6.1 billion) for the development of urban transportation in Arab localities by 2030. It’s a nice number, out which all the new budget is expected to deliver for the next two years is NIS 2 billion ($611 million). Also, the budget will assign NIS 2.5 billion ($763 million) to a five-year plan to eradicate violence and crime in the Arab sector, at least one billion of which (40%) will be allocated to expenses that are outside the Ministry of Homeland Security.
So far, the Lapid-Bennett government has suffered humiliating defeats, many of which could be traced to the competition between Ra’am, an Islamist party affiliated with the coalition, and the Joint Arab List, a left-leaning opposition party. Anything Ra’am would deliver for the Arab sector boosts its influence in the sector at the expense of its rival. The List’s signal that it is eager to do business should be a clue for Lapid and Bennett to start using this animosity to their benefit. Dangle those slabs of red meat in front of them and see who jumps higher.