Biden To Visit Israel in June Despite Bennett’s Coalition Crisis: Report
The White House called Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office on Saturday with a much sought-after RSVP, Israel’s Channel 12 reports: President Joe Biden still plans to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories at the end of June, despite questions about the future of Bennett’s coalition.
Preparations for the trip, including security coordination between the US Secret Service and Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, are already underway. The trip to the Holy Land – Biden’s first as president – will include meetings with Bennett and President Isaac Herzog, as well as a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
Biden last visited Israel as vice president in 2016. Bennett met with President Biden at the White House in August.
The possibility that President Biden might cancel his trip was raised immediately when MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, from the left-wing Meretz party, resigned from the coalition on Thursday – a move that could bring former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu back to power as head of a more right-wing government or send Israel to early elections. Rinawie Zoabi’s defection was the second from Bennett’s razor-thin 61-seat majority coalition and follows the bolting of former coalition whip Idit Silman, a member of Knesset from the prime minister’s right-wing Yamina party, who jumped to the opposition seven weeks ago.
Rinawie Zoabi has signaled that she may be willing to return to the coalition or support it on critical votes. She says that despite her dissent from policies such as settlement expansion, she does not necessarily want to bring the government down, since that could lead to rule by a narrow right-wing coalition.
Bennett’s center-right-left coalition, though weak and wounded, could carry on as a minority government. The opposition would need the support of 61 MKs to dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections or to form an alternative government, and it’s unclear whether either option is possible given the current constellation of forces.