How the failed vote on Jewish settlers shows the Israeli government is wavering

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition lost a decisive vote in parliament this week to reinstate measures to regulate the legal rights of settlers, another serious blow to the government’s armor, though not yet a fatal blow.

Defeat shows the fragility of Israel ruling coalition and how a parliamentary deadlock can completely stop issues of national importance.
The right-wing prime minister leads a coalition of unlikely allies from across the political spectrum, including the first Arab party to sit in an Israeli government. The coalition lost its razor-tiny single-seat majority when a member of Bennett’s own party escaped in April.

This week’s vote to renew Israeli law on settlers in the West Bank exposed all the shortcomings of Bennett’s coalition of unlikely allies.

Because the law provides that Jewish settlers in the West Bank are legally treated the same as Israelis, most leftists and Arab members Bennett’s coalitions are opposed to this in principle – they are against settlements.

But to keep the Bennett government in power, most of them voted for the bill anyway.

The Palestinians call the struggle against the settlement in the West Bank a battle for existence.  Jewish settlers say the same

And in a political irony, right-wing opposition parties, including Netanyahu’s Likud, voted no – despite their ideological support for the settlers – in an attempt to damage the coalition at all costs.

The opposition’s political ploy could have far-reaching consequences beyond weakening Bennett.

Monday’s vote was to update the rules that govern how Jewish settlers are being treated in the West Bank in accordance with Israeli law. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, which considers the West Bank to be occupied territory. Israel rejects this, saying that the status of the West Bank is more complicated than international law allows.

Despite controversy over the legal status of the settlements, for decades the rules were regularly updated with little fanfare by governments of the left and right.

If the bill to renew the rules is not passed by the end of June, the Jewish settlers could find themselves in legal limbo. But some settlers likely support these political maneuvers as a way to overthrow the coalition government, even if it makes their day-to-day life more difficult.

The bill can be returned for a new vote every Monday and Wednesday until the end of the month. And while there may be short-term legal workarounds if the deadline passes, another scenario is that the government could be dissolved before the end of June, which would automatically extend the current rules until a new government is formed.

But as long as the government stands on shaky ground, its downfall is not inevitable. Netanyahu’s opposition bloc is still short of the 61 votes needed to dissolve Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, but it is very close to doing so and, by some calculations, should only attract one defector from Bennett’s coalition.

If Netanyahu succeeds in dissolving parliament, it will trigger new elections less than two years after the last vote.

Digest

UN nuclear watchdog warns of ‘fatal blow’ to nuclear deal as Iran removes cameras

According to IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, Iran is removing virtually all of the additional International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring equipment that was installed under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, meaning there are only three to four weeks before before renewal of the agreement becomes impossible.

  • Background: Iran has warned of retaliation if the IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution drafted by the United States, France, Britain and Germany, criticizing Tehran for its failure to explain traces of uranium found at undeclared sites. On Wednesday, the resolution was adopted by a majority vote. Iran told the agency the day before that it plans to dismantle the equipment, including 27 IAEA cameras installed during the 2015 deal.
  • Why is it important: Iran’s decisions could further undermine the prospects for saving the nuclear deal. Indirect negotiations on this issue between Iran and the United States have already stalled.
Watch Grossi’s interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson. here.

Algeria suspends treaty with Spain and bans imports via Western Sahara

Algeria suspended a 20-year friendship treaty with Spain that committed both sides to cooperation in controlling migration flows, and banned imports from Spain, exacerbating a dispute over Madrid’s stance on Western Sahara.

  • Background: Algeria was outraged when Spain announced in March that it supported Morocco’s plan to grant autonomy to Western Sahara. Algeria supports the Frente POLISARIO movement, seeking the complete independence of the territory, which Morocco considers its own and largely controls.
  • Why is it important: This year, migrant flows across the Mediterranean have skyrocketed as the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hit the global economy. On Wednesday, 113 undocumented migrants arrived in Spain via a route that Spanish authorities say was used by ships from Algeria. Algeria is also a key supplier of gas to Spain, but Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboun has previously said he will not violate the supply contract over the dispute.

Saudi-sponsored golf tournament kicks off amid controversy

The LIV Invitational Series, the controversial Saudi-backed golf tour, kicked off Thursday with 48 players kicking off at the Centurion Club north of London. The PGA Tour has suspended all current and future players who choose to join the new tournament.

  • Background: The PGA Tour and Europe-based DP World Tour have turned down contestants’ requests for releases to compete in the Centurion, where finishing last guarantees a $120,000 check.
  • Why is it important: This event has been called the richest in golf history. It offers $25 million in prize money per event, with $4 million of that going to that week’s individual winner. Critics say the series, funded by the $250 million Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), is a “sports wash” by a country trying to improve its reputation.

What’s in trend

Regional: #George_Kordahi

The man who caused a rupture in Saudi-Lebanese relations last year has become the subject of a new controversy.

Social media users from the Arab Gulf states have expressed anger at former Lebanese information minister George Kordahi for comments he made two weeks ago on an Iraqi television station saying that the oil-rich Gulf states are not helping the Levantine state, which is suffering from a devastating economic crisis.

“The Gulf states have not given Lebanon a single drop of water,” Kordahi said.

Some Twitter users have shared news showing how Saudi Arabia’s aid to Lebanon dwarfs that of its regional rival, Iran. Single user accused Kordahi implementation of the “Iranian agenda” in the Middle East.

The former minister, who first became famous for hosting the Arabic version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, sparked a rift between the Gulf states and Lebanon last October after openly criticizing the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors from Beirut, and Kordahi later resigned.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries returned their ambassadors to Beirut this year.

19 100

Number of Syrians who became German citizens in 2021. The figure was three times higher than a year earlier, as many of those who fled between 2014 and 2016 met the eligibility criteria, according to data from the German Federal Statistical Office.

Photo of the day

Children walk past a car riddled with shrapnel in Yemen's third city under siege, Ta'ez, on June 9.  Houthi rebels who caused widespread food shortages and ravaged the country's infrastructure.