After departing whip cracked coalition, finding a new one is proving a challenge

Yamina MK Orbach threatens to follow defector Silman, whose husband reportedly claims he was offered a ‘senior political position’ by Netanyahu

Idit Silman leads a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset, on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Idit Silman leads a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset, on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is struggling to find a suitable replacement for former coalition whip Idit Silman of his Yamina party, who defected last week, depriving the coalition of its Knesset majority and bringing the government to the brink of collapse.

According to a Tuesday report by Channel 12, officials in the coalition have raised concerns that no one would be willing to step in to fill Silman’s shoes amid growing concerns of the coalition unraveling.

MK Boaz Toporovsky of the centrist Yesh Atid party has been serving in the post since Silman’s defection, but will not be able to retain the position permanently due to coalition agreements dictating that her replacement come from one of the coalition’s right-wing parties.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach, seen as the natural candidate to replace Silman, has presented Bennett with conditions for remaining in the government: the reversal of the government’s plan to cancel daycare subsidies for yeshiva students, the convening of the planning commission to approve building plans for 4,000 new homes in the West Bank, and the connection of illegal settlement outposts to the power grid.

“Without a solution to these issues, I can’t stay in the coalition,” Orbach said last week.

While some of his demands have been met, Orbach’s place in the coalition is still uncertain, meaning that as of now, he is not a viable option for replacing Silman.

MK Nir Orbach attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Tuesday, Bennett acknowledged mistakes in the handling of his fractious coalition and pledged to focus more on internal political affairs moving forward.

He also insisted that his crisis-hit government could soldier on, and ruled out any cooperation with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he censured for his political conduct.

Meanwhile, the Likud party has been holding talks with right-wing coalition lawmakers in an attempt to convince them to defect and form a new government.

Bennett’s longtime political partner Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked was reportedly offered a reserved spot on its slate in the next election. But the Yamina lawmaker and others, including Orbach, have so far declined the offers, instead opting to take another crack at shoring up the government.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset on October 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Even Silman’s husband has claimed to have been offered a “senior political position” in a future government by Netanyahu, according to a Tuesday report by Channel 13 news that was vehemently denied by the opposition leader.

Silman herself told The Times of Israel’s Hebrew site Zman Yisrael in an exclusive interview Thursday that she was leaving the coalition in protest over the “erosion of Jewish identity” within the government, which includes left-wing and Arab parties alongside her own Yamina and other right-wing factions.

Her departure came days after she publicly criticized Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz over his insistence that hospitals abide by rules allowing hametz — leavened products forbidden by religiously observant Jews over Passover — to be brought into facilities.

She denied that Likud had pulled her into the opposition by promising a ministerial portfolio and other political benefits, but claimed that the current coalition had offered to give her the Health Ministry to win back her support, which she said she rejected.

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