Netanyahu suffers setback as Arab party votes control of key committee to opposition

The Arrangements Committee runs Knesset business until a government is formed.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

The Likud party was dealt a major setback when it lost its proposal in a Knesset vote for the composition of a key committee on Monday. It could lead to still more Likud defeats down the road.

The Arrangements Committee runs Knesset business until a government is formed, including what legislation comes before the Knesset. That legislation, as Haaretz notes, “could either aid the prime minister or undermine his attempts to form a government.”

Likud’s proposal for the make-up of the committee would have given each bloc 10 committee seats with one more seat going to Yemina and one to the Joint List.

In the opposition (and winning) formula, the right-wing bloc receives 14 committee seats to the opposition’s 16. Yemina gets two seats and the Joint List one.

The Likud clearly expected to win the vote but the Arab Ra’am party went back on an agreement reached with the Likud. According to reports, Likud members first celebrated when they saw Ra’am enter the hall to vote, but then were caught off guard when it voted down the Likud proposal, giving the opposition the win.

Likud’s right-wing ally, the Religious Zionism party, which opposed the idea of a government relying on Ra’am, were quick to condemn the Arab party. They said Ra’am’s behavior proved they had been right to resist Likud pressure to go along with a plan to permit a right-wing government to rely on Arab votes.

“What has now happened in the plenum illustrates better than any scenario how much a coalition should not rest on Ra’am. Today it is the Arrangements Committee. Tomorrow an operation in Gaza. Pay attention anyone for whom this country is dear,” tweeted MK Orit Strock of the Religious Zionism party.

MK Betzalel Smotrich, leader of Religious Zionism, tweeted, “And the truth is, luckily it happened now and we will all become sober, and not in the middle of an operation in Gaza.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir, also of Religious Zionism, said, “Hopefully now even the Likud understands that there is no faith in haters of Israel.”

It was revealed after the vote that Ra’am went with the opposition after its leader Mansour Abbas met with the head of the opposition, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, who made various promises, including giving Ra’am a place on the Knesset Finance Committee, the chairmanship of the Committee for the Elimination of Violence and Crime in Arab Society and the position of Deputy Speaker of the Knesset.

Lapid celebrated the victory, tweeting the vote “is another small step on the way to an Israeli unity government.”

MK Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the Meretz party, tweeted, “Netanyahu’s defeat in the vote on the Arrangements Committee is the first step in getting Israel back on track. Now it is clear: Netanyahu does not have a majority in the Knesset. The new majority needs to quickly set up temporary committees, led by finance and foreign affairs and security.

“In the next stage, I call on all the faction leaders to support the transfer of the mandate to Lapid for the purpose of forming a new and functioning government.”