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Analysis

Bennett’s coalition has lost its majority. Could Netanyahu’s Likud now regain power?

The opposition has 2 main potential paths to unseat Bennett’s eight-party government. Neither is straightforward, but Idit Silman’s bombshell resignation makes them more plausible

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu (R) walks past Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during voting on the state budget, November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu (R) walks past Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during voting on the state budget, November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Wednesday’s resignation of Yamina MK Idit Silman, the coalition whip, from Naftali Bennett’s eight-party government has thrown Israeli politics back into chaos, depriving the coalition of its parliamentary majority and opening up the possibility of a Likud-led government.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s party has two main potential paths for a return to power,  neither of them straightforward. Silman’s resignation bombshell, however, has caused chaos in the coalition, less than 10 months after it took charge, and with an invigorated Likud pushing for further defections, the opposition is showing optimism about its prospects for forcing Bennett’s right-center-left-Arab alliance out of office.

The first option for a Likud-led return to power would be for it to pass a law to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections. To pass, this law would require the support of at least 61 of the 120 members of Knesset. (A simple majority is not sufficient.)

The bill would therefore likely necessitate the widespread backing of the current opposition, including members of the six-strong Joint List of Arab lawmakers, and the support of some lawmakers not currently in the opposition, for example Silman and rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli.

With the Knesset in recess, scheduling a vote on such a bill is thought to be unlikely before the weeklong Passover festival which starts at the end of next week, but could be arranged soon after that.

(If such a bill were to pass, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would be automatically appointed prime minister for the transition period through new elections and the establishment and swearing-in of a new government.)

Coalition whip Idit Silman of the Yamina party at the Knesset House Committee, July 25, 2021. (Knesset)

The second option would be for Likud to form an alternate government in the current 24th Knesset, without a resort to elections, although it appears it would struggle to do so: Likud has 29 seats, while its natural allies have another 23 — Religious Zionism has seven, Shas has nine and United Torah Judaism has seven — for a total of 52.

Even if Bennett’s Yamina party were to split apart, and Silman and Chikli were able to convince other defectors to join them, such as Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and MK Nir Orbach, that would still only take a Likud-led bloc to 56 seats out of the Knesset’s 120. It would still need further support from within the current coalition ranks, such as, potentially, disaffected members of Benny Gantz’s eight-strong Blue and White party or from the more right-leaning New Hope party, which has six seats.

Building a new, right-wing coalition without elections is the option declaredly favored by Silman. “I will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and form a right-wing government,” she said in her resignation letter. “I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Another government can be formed in this Knesset.”

A third and final path Likud could take is currently irrelevant: It could prevent the passing of a budget, thus causing the coalition to fall; however, that option would only be possible next year.

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