Coalition’s Fate Hangs on Yeshiva in Chomesh

By Zalman Ahnsaf

Visitors walk by the water tower on the ruins of the evacuated settlement of Chomesh (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – The fate of the Bennett-Lapid coalition may depend on the fate of a yeshiva at a tiny outpost in the Shomron, as right-wing MKs warned on Wednesday that they’ll quit if the planned evacuation of Chomesh is carried out.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked pledged: “We will do everything so that Chomesh is not evacuated. The continued existence of the yeshiva there is symbolic and significant,” Shaked said at the Gush Etzion leadership conference held at Kibbutz Lavi, according to The Times of Israel.

“This yeshiva has been evacuated many times. This should stop and the yeshiva students should be allowed to study,” she added.

It remained to be seen whether Yamina’s response will alter the course of the coalition at Chomesh.

“There is a law that states that construction in localities that were part of the disengagement is illegal,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, referring to the fact that Chomesh was one of a small cluster of communities in the Shomron that were included in the pullout from Gush Katif in 2005.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that he intends to order the evacuation of Chomesh as per the law, but he did not specify a timeframe for action.

“Chomesh will be evacuated,” Gantz said on Monday at the opening of his Blue and White faction meeting. “Israeli law requires it.”

At the end of this week, the government is due to submit its response to an ongoing High Court case regarding the evacuation. He is reportedly in consultation with other officials on the formulation of the government’s response.

A coalition official warned earlier in the day that if the dismantled community of Chomesh will be evacuated as ordered by the court, it will be the final nail in the coffin of the ramshackle government.

The official told Yediot that if Defense Minister Benny Gantz does not appeal the decision of the High Court and goes ahead with the evacuation, the right-wing members of the coalition will have no choice but to resign from the government, effectively triggering its dissolution.

In the past 24 hours, senior coalition members, including Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and MK Nir Orbach, both from the Yamina party, have been in contact with Gantz ahead of his appeal to the court.

According to coalition officials, MK Orbach has said behind closed doors that evacuation of the community would be a “red line” for the right-wing elements in the government.

“Those who are familiar with Orbach know such an event will surely lead to his withdrawal,” a coalition official said. Orbach refused to immediately comment on the remarks.

Gantz has apparently not made a decision on which position to take during his appeal, and sources within his political party argued that some of the threats from the right were intended to try and influence his final choice.

In his appeal to the court, Gantz can potentially back the immediate evacuation of Chomesh, in which case the coalition will likely fall apart. However, the defense minister also has the option of ordering the evacuation without setting a timeline, thus buying some time and avoiding a political crisis.

On Tuesday, a Blue and White member accused the Yamina party of deliberately hinting at the coalition’s demise in the event that Chomesh is evacuated, thus making Gantz responsible for the government’s overthrow.

Some coalition officials claimed Tuesday that the crisis over Chomesh is significant, but at the same time, senior members of the right-wing party are negotiating with Gantz to try and reach an agreement on the issue.

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