Failure to pass the bill not only threatens the coalition, but also the well-being of Jewish residents who could lose access to national health care and other basic needs.
By World Israel News Staff
In an emergency vote Monday evening, the Knesset voted against a bill that would extend Israeli law to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria for another five years.
Fifty-eight MKs voted against the bill, including coalition MKs Mazen Ganaim of the Islamist Ra’am party and Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi of the extreme-left Meretz, versus 52 who voted in favor.
Ever since the 1967 Six Day War – when Israel liberated Judea and Samaria, which had been under Jordanian rule for 19 years – successive Israeli governments have renewed the law every five years. The law enables Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria to receive the same benefits, such as social security, as those living in pre-1967 Israeli territory, and to be prosecuted in Israeli criminal courts.
This is the first time in 55 years that the Israeli government voted against the extension of the law. For several days ahead of the vote, Justice Minister Gideon Saar, head of the right-wing New Hope party – which is part of the diverse coalition – threatened to bring down the government should the bill not pass.
“Next week there will be a test of whether the coalition wants to exist or does not want to exist,” he told Kan News last week. “This vote will see it.”
During a five-hour heated debate ahead of the vote, Saar warned: “On July 1, elementary school and kindergarten students will go on summer vacation. Will 3,500 security prisoners who are currently in Israeli prisons also walk free? The answer to this question largely depends on whether this bill that the Knesset is voting on tonight passes.”
“This is very elemental, comprehensive legislation and the approval of the bill is critical to maintaining public and legal order in Judea and Samaria,” he continued. “This is not just another law – it is a law that enables governance in Judea and Samaria. These regulations are essential in order to regulate the legal status of half a million Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria.
“But not only that. The regulations contain other critical arrangements that are essential for the functioning of the State of Israel and the security of Israeli citizens. Every single aspect of life in Judea and Samaria hinges on this legislation.”
The right-wing Likud opposition, which ideologically supports the bill, also voted against it, as its first priority is to bring down the government. “We will do everything to topple this bad government,” Likud MK Keti Shitrit told World Israel News. “It’s not possible to be in the Opposition and be a rubber stamp for them when they send billions to the Islamic Movement.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party slammed the Likud lawmakers for voting alongside the anti-Zionist Arab Joint List party, which is also in the opposition, “against the residents” of Judea and Samaria . Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope) also blasted Likud for betraying its principles.
Following the vote, Likud released a statement that read: “Bennett – go home. It’s over. It’s time to return Israel to the right.”