Arab MP returns to Israel coalition after briefly quitting

Ms Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi last week linked her departure to unrest and tensions at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound. PHOTO: GHAIDA RINAWIE ZOABI/FACEBOOK

JERUSALEM (AFP) - A left-wing Arab-Israeli lawmaker who quit the governing coalition last week, citing grievances including police aggression at an Al Jazeera reporter's funeral, reversed her decision on Sunday (May 22).

The decision by Ms Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi of the dovish Meretz party to leave the coalition headed by right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had briefly left it with just 59 out of 120 seats in Israel's Parliament, the Knesset.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid - the main architect who assembled the ideologically disparate 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," he said.

The nearly one-year-old Bennett government has been seen 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 bolted.

Ms 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 onto their premises during the Passover holiday.

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

Ms 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 the journalist's coffin out of a hospital before her burial.

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

"I think that if (lawmakers) from the left feel that the government is too right-wing, and (lawmakers) 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," the Premier said.

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