Ra’am Makes New Agreement with the Government

On Sunday, the Ra’am party announced that a new agreement had been reached with the coalition pertaining to some of the unrecognized communities found in the country’s southern Negev region. This agreement would allow some of the illegal construction to remain and no penalty would be imposed. This announcement came after Ra’am put an end to its three-week freeze from its membership in the coalition last week, which could have jeopardized the position of the precarious government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Even after receiving Ra’am’s support, the government still only has 60 seats in the Knesset, the same as that of the opposition.

The Islamist party said in a statement on Sunday that the government had agreed to not demolish buildings in unrecognized villages that are about 70 square meters and the owners will not be fined either. The rules will also be applicable to roof extensions as well as new extensions and homes bringing existing buildings to that size. According to Ra’am, this development is just one of the few that it has managed to secure in its new deal with the government. The party stated that this new government would serve as oxygen for the Arab families that are living in those villages in the Negev.

An archived interview was also published by the party with Said al-Harumi, the late MK, who had passed away last year in August. He mentioned in the interview that this agreement had already been made with the previous government led by Likud, but it hadn’t been put into writing before the new elections were carried out. Meir Cohen, the Welfare Minister had asked the attorney general in February to increase the size of illegal buildings that would be included in enforcement in unrecognized communities to 70 square meters from 50. According to coalition sources, it had been a small change in the size of the buildings that the previous government had already approved.

MatanKahana, the Yamina MK, said on Monday that the government was finally addressing the matter in the Negev after years of loss of governance and neglect. On Friday, Kahana gave his resignation as the minister for religious affairs and said that he wouldn’t make a big deal out of this. He has now returned to the Knesset as a lawmaker in what he claims is an attempt to shore up the coalition. However, a video statement was released by Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader, in which he said that the Shura Council was holding the government hostage.

He predicted that it will not take long for the government to fall apart and he also called on the right-wing members of the coalition to join the opposition, so they could form a new nationalist government. Ra’am’s announcement prompted the opposition to say that Bennett was selling off the country to the Shura Council, which provides guidance to the Ra’am party and had played an important role in its suspension from the coalition and then its decision to join in once more.

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