Israel’s ruling coalition suffered a serious blow on Monday night after it failed to pass a bill on rules governing Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, a vote that had become a critical test of the government’s viability.
The defeat came two months after the government lost its parliamentary majority and deepened the uncertainty over how long the coalition, which stretches across the political spectrum, can cling on to power.
The government, which includes both Jewish nationalists and, for the first time in Israeli political history, an Islamist Arab party, was formed a year ago by eight parties united mainly by a desire to end the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, who had dominated the country’s politics for a decade.
Given the deep differences between its members, the coalition sought to put aside contentious issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and instead focus its energies on other topics.
But analysts said tensions over Israeli-Palestinian relations have repeatedly sparked crises within the ruling camp. “Israel controls the Palestinians. But the conflict and occupation also control Israel,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, a political consultant and pollster. “Even if we think we can ignore it, we cannot.”
The “emergency” laws under debate on Monday applied parts of Israeli law to about 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians are subject to military law.
In force since 1967, the laws have been renewed every five years. The latest five-year period concludes at the end of the month and if the laws are not renewed before then, they will expire.
Justice minister Gideon Sa’ar said that failure to extend the emergency laws would provoke “chaos”. His nationalist New Hope party has intimated in recent days that it could leave the government if the legislation was not extended.
“Any coalition member who does not support such a fundamental bill is actively working to dismantle the coalition,”…
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