Ra’am Freezes its Knesset and Coalition Membership amidst Temple Mount Clashes

On Sunday, the Islamist Ra’am Party decided to temporarily freeze its membership in the coalition as well as the Knesset. This was because of increasing pressure because of the clashes taking place on Temple Mount between the police and the Palestinians. At this stage, this is just a declarative decision because the Parliament is in recess due to the Passover holiday. However, opposition sources may regard this as yet another opportunity of weakening the coalition and encourage defections, which could help bring down the government. According to the media, this freeze would stay in effect for two weeks and has been coordinated with both Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett the Prime Minister.

It is aimed at easing the pressure on the party and also prevent the government from breaking permanently. The violence of the Israeli security forces at the Jerusalem holy site drove Ra’am to denounce their actions. In fact, one Islamist lawmaker went as far as threatening to quit the coalition altogether. Mansour Abbas, the Ra’am chief, has been calling for calm repeatedly and downplayed the possibility of leaving the coalition. The Southern Islamic Movement is the umbrella organization of the Ra’am Party. Its Shura council conducted a meeting on Sunday for discussing the violence taking place at the holy site in Jerusalem and it was decided to issue a temporary freeze. 

The council possesses the authority to make decisions about the party and can also order members of the Knesset to leave the quit the coalition. The Islamic Movement was founded in the 1980s and in the past year, it has been thrust into the spotlight. This is because Ra’am became the first Arab party to join the coalition government in decades, since it has four seats in the Knesset. There are two informal branches of the movement, with the ‘northern’ one being more radical due to which it was banned in 2015 by Israel for alleged terror ties. The southern one, on the other hand, is regarded as more moderate.

Abbas seems to be taking a more pragmatic approach, in contrast with a few of his predecessors. A Southern Islamic Movement’s senior religious figure called on Ra’am earlier on Sunday to abandon the coalition altogether. According to sources, officials of the Ra’am Party are hoping that as the tensions over the Temple Mount clashes have risen when the Knesset is in recess, the situation may calm down by May 9th when the Parliament eventually reconvenes. 

But, some sources suggest that the opposite could use this for intensifying their efforts to bring down the government. Walid Taha, a Ra’am MK, stated that ‘apparently’ the coalition was going to collapse. He added that they had believed this government would be different, but they had allowed fascists to cause trouble. In recent days, the current government has come very close to a collapse after a member of the Yamina Party of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, MK Idit Silman decided to quit the coalition. This caused the party to lose its majority. Now, the opposition and coalition both have 60 seats each, which means the Knesset is deadlocked. 

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