Minister: Vote on renewing civil law for settlers is a test for coalition’s survivability

Justice Minister Gideon Saar warned on Tuesday that the government’s future could hinge on the passage of a technical but controversial bill to renew a law extending Israeli civil and criminal legal protections to Israelis living in the West Bank.

The bill, opposed by dovish and Islamist politicians in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition, was shelved for a week on Monday after coalition leaders failed to get enough support. measurement support.

“Next week will be a test, whether this coalition wants to exist or does not want to exist,” Sa’ar told Kan public radio, calling the measure “essential”.

The bill would renew an emergency measure extending Israeli criminal law and some key civil laws — such as income tax and health insurance — to Israelis living in the West Bank. Although Israel has not annexed the West Bank, the measure ensures that settlers living there are treated as if they were living in Israel in most cases, without extending those same legal protections to Palestinians.

Originally enacted in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, the law remains an “emergency measure” which must be renewed every five years. Last adopted in 2017, it is due to expire at the end of June.

Saar, whose radical New Hope party supports settlements and opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, told Kan that unless the measure passes, Israeli settlers will be subject to Israel’s military justice system. , which is based on Jordanian law. He said such a situation had never happened.

A policeman and IDF soldier guard the exterior of the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit in the West Bank, which is under a week-long lockdown due to a high rate of coronavirus infections, July 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It will create chaos for justice issues in Judea and Samaria,” he said, using a biblical term for the West Bank. “It will harm the territory’s connection to Israel and Israeli law and harm some 500,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.

While the right-wing Likud-led religious bloc in the opposition backs the renewal in principle, it has pledged not to join the majority in passing it, pledging to oppose any sponsored legislation by the government, whatever the content.

Sa’ar described the opposition’s refusal as “not only unprecedented but also dangerous”, but appeared to compel members of his own coalition to line up behind the measure.

“Any coalition member who votes against it says ‘I don’t want this government,'” he said, adding that he had explained its importance to other party leaders.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, center, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, at the Knesset on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“There are laws that you want to pass, and nothing happens if they don’t, and laws that need to be passed. This law is of the second category,” he said.

Sitting in close parity of 60-60 seats with the opposition in the 120-member Knesset, the big tent coalition includes parties from across the political spectrum, including the Islamist Ra’am party. While Ra’am has backed contentious measures in the past, the party has complained that the coalition has failed to deliver on pledged commitments, causing its four MPs to lose support on the street and lose them. less responsive to coalition demands. The party temporarily froze its participation in parliamentary activities last month to protest the state’s handling of the unrest on the Temple Mount.

Ra’am is currently tight-lipped about how he would vote on the bill if the coalition is rushed.

Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas (center) gives a statement to the press at the Knesset, in the presence of party MKs Walid Taha (left) and Mazen Ghanaim (right), May 11, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Monday, Saar withdrew the Knesset proposal, saying in a statement that Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had asked him to delay the vote for a week, “to maximize efforts to pass this vital law.” .

The government appeared to be trying to put a Ra’am complaint to bed, with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman agreeing to fund another 35 community imams through the Home Office.

Bennett’s coalition has struggled to control its MPs and parties in recent weeks, bringing the government to the brink of collapse amid a long series of wrangling over policy positions and security tensions.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on March 13, 2022. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

On Tuesday, Bennett’s Yamina party appeared to open a new front, criticizing Liberman’s efforts to cut funding to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, which he accuses of promoting idleness.

“This coalition is based on agreements and we will fulfill our duties and ensure that Torah students are not harmed,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a video recorded alongside fellow politician Yamina. Nir Orbach, outside a government-run religious high school in Zichron Yaakov.

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