by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, May 19 (Xinhua) -- The resignation of an Arab-Israeli member of the coalition on Thursday has led the Israeli government to lose its parliamentary majority with the potential of plunging the country into renewed political instability.
The resignation of Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the left-wing Meretz party leaves the coalition with 59 votes in the 120-seats parliament.
In Israel, a minority itself does not terminate the government. However, the opposition could bring a no-confidence vote to the plenum next week. Should it pass, Israel could enter an election campaign in the coming months.
The current government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, was sworn in less than a year ago. The coalition had 61 votes until six weeks ago, when a member of Bennett's Yamina party, an ultra-nationalist party, resigned. Earlier, another member of Yamina had already withdrawn his support for the coalition.
"We are undoubtedly closer to elections because of this move," said Yonatan Freeman, an international relations and politics expert at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In her resignation letter, Zoabi said that she was quitting because Bennett's government has taken a string of "hawkish and right-wing policies" over the flashpoint holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, and other issues relating to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Israeli media reported that Bennett called members of his party for an emergency meeting in order to face the fallout from the resignation.
When the government was sworn in last June, there was little faith in its ability to survive. The coalition was created from a group of parties with wide-ranging, including ultra-right wing nationalist parties, an extreme leftist party, as well as an Arab one, which often have contradictory views on almost all issues.
Menachem Klein, a professor from the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University, noted that "this coalition has too many internal, systemic contradictions and a built-in fragility."
"This government may have wanted to steer clear from contentious issues, but everything in Israel is always under contention, especially when it comes to national security," Freeman told Xinhua.
Leading the opposition is former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not succeed in forming a government after four consecutive terms. He already announced on Wednesday his plans to bring a no-confidence motion to parliament, but it is not clear that whether the former leader can garner enough votes to topple the Bennett government.
However, recent polls show some parties may quit the political landscape in future election.
"The interest for many of the current coalition members is to not hold elections, including Bennett. Some parties currently in the coalition may not pass the threshold needed to enter the parliament next time," said Freeman.
Bennett came under severe criticism from the right-wing when he formed the government with leftist and Arab parties. Netanyahu has repeatedly taunted him for a weak response to the recent attacks against Israelis.
"It was clear that the pressure on the government would come from the right in order to show that Bennett is caving in to the left," said Klein, adding "any security tension could now topple the government and any critical vote can lead to extortion by coalition members. There is a political deadlock."
The government recently announced the approval of thousands of housing units to be built in the West Bank territories, an attempt by Bennett to appease the right-wing, which may put the leftist elements of his government in a bind, said the analysts.
On Wednesday, Israeli authorities announced they would allow an annual Israeli flag parade to pass through the Muslim Quarter in East Jerusalem. This will likely add to already heightened tensions and further test the coalition.
With violence threatening to re-ignite, Zoabi may be joined by more members of the coalition in withdrawing support and taking Israel to the polls earlier than scheduled. ■