In a dramatic move, coalition whip Edith Silman announced Wednesday that she will withdraw from the coalition and instead work to form a new government.
Silman’s announcement, which she said was due to “damage” to Jewish identity in Israel, meant the coalition no longer had a majority.
I will not incite harm to the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. I will continue to try to convince my friends to come home and form a right-wing government. “I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Another government could be formed in this Knesset.”
According to reports, Silman did not tell Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – the head of the Yamina party of which she is a member – of the move in advance, leaving the prime minister to know through media reports that he had lost his government’s majority.
Reports said Bennett’s schedule for Wednesday was canceled because he met with advisers.
Silman’s announcement means that the government will only be able to pass legislation with the support of opposition MPs. The only party that might give it votes for some legislation is the Joint List of Arab factions, but its support will only alienate the coalition’s right-wing parties.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to congratulate Silman on what he called a “courageous move”.
“I am deeply moved to hear MK Edith Silman’s statement, and I congratulate her on behalf of the masses of the Israeli people who are yearning for this moment,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.
“I invite all those elected by the national camp to join Edith and return home, and they will be received with full respect and with open arms,” Netanyahu said.
Likud waged a brutal months-long online campaign against Yamina joining the government and ousting Netanyahu, Silman being a prime target.
The lawmaker was repeatedly harassed and said she was physically assaulted at a gas station – at the time, Netanyahu suggested that Silman could have made up the story of the attack in order to discredit opponents of the coalition.
Religious Services Minister Matan Kahane responded to Wednesday’s announcement in a radio interview, saying he hoped Silman would change her mind.
“I’ve found it now, and I hope it’s reversible. This government is doing good things for the people, and it was formed out of political necessity, but I think it’s very useful to keep it going,” said the right-wing MP.
Far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich, head of the opposition Religious Zionism party, who was previously a political partner of Bennett and is an outspoken opponent of the government, said Silman had taken a “courageous step”.
“The National Camp will receive Edith with open arms and in a place of honor dedicated to those who saved the people of Israel,” Smotrich said in a statement.
I call on the members of the coalition who were elected with the right to return to their homes. Together, a Jewish, Zionist and nationalist government will be built that will do much good to the State of Israel,” he said.
Silman’s move came at a time when the coalition was already struggling with the day-to-day business of the Knesset due to the fact that it had a very slim majority.
Yamina’s other MK, Amichai Chakli, is already an outspoken critic of the government who tends to vote with the opposition.
Yamina could now announce that Silman and Chikli are opposition MPs and expel them from the party. This means that they will be barred from running in the upcoming elections under any party that is currently part of the Knesset.
It might be Silman’s alternative and my shape to form a new faction, but they won’t be able to do it alone, as they need two other members of the alliance to make the move.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has had a strained relationship with several of her coalition partners and is seen as a potential defector.
Other possibilities are MK Nir Auerbach, the head of the Knesset Knesset Committee who has clashed frequently with left-wing coalition partners, or Abir Kara, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Silman has recently been very vocal about issues of religion and state in Israel.
Earlier this week, she clash With Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, he attacked him for instructing hospitals to allow patients and visitors to bring hamtz, or non-kosher food for Passover, to their premises during the upcoming Easter holiday – although the minister was only ordering institutions to abide by a Supreme Court ruling on this matter.
Silman demanded that Horowitz release guidelines on the matter, warning that his actions “crossed a red line” and that he should be fired.
last week I came out firmly Against the so-called Western Wall settlement, a deal that would grant additional liberties to non-Orthodox streams of Judaism at the holy site in Jerusalem.
There is a status quo with the Western Wall that I don’t think will change. All the attention about this is just demagogy. This is the house of prayer. There is a minority – a reformist minority – that makes a lot of noise like the majority. “We need to tell the truth: that’s not the case,” Silman said in an interview with public broadcaster Cannes. “This government and certainly we – or at least I – need to preserve the orthodox character of the Western Wall.”
Since the formation of the government, there have been multiple reports of attempts by the opposition to poach coalition MPs and overthrow the government.
Silman’s announcement comes amid growing tensions within the coalition, which last year united parties from the left-to-right pro-settler, along with the Islamist Ra’em party, to oust Netanyahu and his Likud faction after a series of inconclusive elections that have crippled it. The Knesset for two years.
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