Prime Minister Naftali Bennett kicked former coalition whip Idit Silman out of a Yamina faction meeting on Monday after she refused to commit to supporting the appointment of MK Matan Kahana as deputy minister or minister in the Religious Affairs Ministry.
On Friday Kahana announced his resignation as religious affairs minister and his return to his Knesset seat in order to “help strengthen the coalition,” bumping out Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon, who had entered the Knesset under the so-called Norwegian Law.
Reinstalled in the Knesset, Kahana can now return as a minister or deputy minister, provided he wins majority parliamentary support, holding both a parliamentary and a ministerial role.
Kalfon was said to be the latest Yamina MK planning to defect from the fragile coalition, which has already lost two lawmakers, leaving the eight-party coalition without a clear majority.
One of those two lawmakers is Silman, who threw the government into a tailspin when she decamped last month, erasing the coalition’s one-seat majority and putting it at a 60-60 seat parity with the opposition.
According to leaks from the meeting, after Bennett asked his party members how they intend to vote on Kahana returning to the Religious Affairs Ministry, Silman said: “We’ll talk about it.”
Bennett replied: “Aren’t you embarrassed to come here? I don’t understand, how does this reflect your party discipline?… You’re violating the party line.”
“I didn’t say ‘no,'” Silman clarified, after which Bennett asked her to leave the meeting and continued it without her.
“I didn’t understand what he wanted from me,” Silman later said in an interview with the religious Srugim news site. “He really lost it.”
According to a poll published by Channel 12 over the weekend, only 34 percent of the public believe Silman’s assertions that her defection from the coalition stemmed from ideological reasons, with the vast majority saying it was a purely political maneuver on her behalf.
Silman has insisted that she was not promised anything in exchange for resigning from the coalition, despite holding a meeting with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hours before making the announcement.
She argued that the decision to leave took “a lot of courage” and was made despite significant incentives to stay.
Silman has taken steps to advance the collapse of the current coalition after slamming the “gradual erosion” of Israel’s Jewish identity under the watch of Bennett’s government.
The former coalition whip claimed that the status quo regarding the public upholding of the Sabbath, along with other issues pertaining to religion and state, has been violated by the government.
“Nobody is prepared to stand up to the Yisrael Beytenu party… on kashrut, conversion, the Reform Western Wall, the Temple Mount, on Torah study,” Silman told Channel 12 in an interview earlier this month, listing issues on which the government has sought to enact reform.
The renegade MK has called on “her friends” in the Yamina and New Hope right-wing coalition parties to quit.
“The government is living on borrowed time… It’s not only that it has no Knesset majority, it has no majority among the people.” she has argued.
Bennett has not publicly criticized Silman for her decision to defect from the government, but earlier this month told lawmakers from his party that she quit due to the unbearable pressure she faced from opposition lawmakers and their supporters.