Orbach defends Ra'am deal, further hints he backs coalition

‘I feel unsafe’: Yamina MK Silman speaks of threats against her and her children

Lawmaker implies Netanyahu’s Likud funding wave of rallies outside her home; says protester told her ‘we’ll slaughter you,’ told her 6th-grader son ‘your mother will burn in hell’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Yamina MK Idit Silman talking to Channel 13 news in an interview from her home, June 8, 2021. (Screenshot)
Yamina MK Idit Silman talking to Channel 13 news in an interview from her home, June 8, 2021. (Screenshot)

Yamina MK Idit Silman spoke out Monday evening about the series of threats and intimidation attempts she has been facing since the party decided to join a coalition with seven other right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, saying people have threatened to “slaughter” her and stopped her sixth-grader son outside school to tell him “your mother will burn in hell.”

Silman said she felt as if she were in the TV series “The Sopranos” and insinuated that elements close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party have been funding the daily protests outside her home and the homes of several other Yamina lawmakers.

On Sunday, Silman put in a request for her security to be stepped up, saying that she was being followed by activists. According to the Kan public broadcaster, Silman sent a voice message to the Yamina WhatsApp group while driving recently, claiming that she was being trailed.

“I don’t really feel good, there’s a car that’s chasing me on the street,” she told the group. “I’d like to know what you think I can do. They followed me out of the house and are following me everywhere I go.”

A car with a loudspeaker on the roof followed Silman’s vehicle, Channel 12 news reported. She also pulled her children out of their educational institutions, and Army Radio said they had been “banned” from their youth movements.

“I’m scared this will eventually reach my family, my kids,” Silman told Channel 13 news Monday. “I really feel like I need to take care of myself these days. Heading out of my house and knowing there are cars trailing me isn’t a pleasant feeling. It’s impossible to drop off the kids in the morning. I feel unsafe.”

Yamina MK Idit Silman arrives for coalition talks, at the Maccabiah village in Ramat Gan on June 2, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“There are protests against me that have external funding,” Silman claimed. “Bringing food and drinks for an entire Shabbat for people to protest requires a budget. They came in buses and need to sleep somewhere. I don’t know who organized all this and can’t point a finger, but the general direction is clear to me.”

Giving an example, Silman said one demonstrator came up to her and said: “I really feel pain over what you and your kids are going through, it’s terrible. But don’t worry, the first opportunity we have, we will slaughter you.”

She also said she had received a phone call from her son, who is in sixth grade and told her a vehicle stopped next to him outside his school and a person told him: “Your mother is a devil and she will burn in hell.”

Silman said: “These are difficult words for a kid who isn’t inside the loop I’m in and didn’t choose to be in it. I want to know I can send my kids to school and that they’ll come back and not be worried about what could be happening to them on the way there and back.”

Nir Orbach, another member of prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett’s right-wing party who has been under intense pressure to defect to Netanyahu’s bloc, further indicated Monday that he intends to support the eight-faction “change government” that is set to oust Netanyahu when it is sworn in, which must happen by June 14.

The Knesset Guard decided Sunday to up the security around Orbach and Silman after they were targeted by activists.

Orbach, who has yet to publicly announce his position, reportedly told associates he intends to back the proposed “change government” Bennett agreed to form with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. He is expected to announce on Tuesday his final intention on the upcoming vote. Sources in Yamina had hoped he would announce his decision to support the government already on Monday night, but Orbach continued to hold out.

After spending several days on the fence, Orbach has been facing demonstrations near his home in Petah Tikva by supporters of Netanyahu calling on him to oppose the nascent coalition.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach arrives for a meeting with Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and fellow Yamina MKs, at Bennett’s home in Ra’anana, on June 4, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

On Monday, the Arutz Sheva news site published a recording of Orbach appearing to justify his party’s decision and further indicating he will back the emerging coalition.

The outlet said the recordings were from a Monday meeting between Orbach and Rabbi Ohad Taharlev, who supports the emerging government. The conversation touched on the recent Jewish-Arab riots in mixed cities that saw Arab mobs attack Jews, Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues, along with Jewish attacks against Arabs.

“There is no doubt that it was much easier for me [to support the new government] before the riots, because during the riots I was in Acre, Lod and Ramle. People who lived next to [Jews] helped the rioters by pointing at where they live, that’s what’s terrifying,” Orbach was heard saying.

He defended the inclusion of the Islamist Ra’am party, which has entailed promising to halt enforcement against construction by Bedouins in the Negev without permits.

“Enforcing construction is important and we’re on that, but it isn’t as if it was enforced until now,” Orbach said. “Most of the [coalition] agreement deals with budgets, their ability to fulfill their rights as citizens, and everyone here supports that.”

Meanwhile, the Likud secretariat on Monday approved a motion to reserve three open spots on the party’s electoral list in the next election, in a further bid to entice members of Yamina and fellow right-wing party New Hope to oppose the proposed government.

Bennett was reportedly intending to hand Orbach a senior role in the government, with some reports saying he would be named settlements minister.

Silman, meanwhile, was being considered for the role of coalition whip, a challenging position in an unprecedentedly diverse coalition spanning right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties that enjoys the narrowest parliamentary majority possible, political sources told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.

Silman could get the post since she has a good relationship with members of all parties, including the Islamist Ra’am, the sources said.

Only one woman has served as coalition whip in Israel’s history — Likud’s Sarah Doron in 1988.

Protesters outside the home of Yamina MK Nir Orbach in Petah Tikva on June 3, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Supporters of the potential incoming government have faced intense protests and threats over the past week ahead of a Knesset vote on the coalition.

Netanyahu’s son Yair was briefly blocked from posting on social media sites for publicly sharing Orbach’s address ahead of a protest outside his home. Orbach said in response that he supported the premier’s son’s right to free speech.

At least four of the seven Yamina lawmakers in the Knesset have now been given additional protection amid threats directed at them over the party joining up with Lapid and his Yesh Atid party. Party leader Bennett and No. 2 Ayelet Shaked had their security beefed up last week.

Heavy pressure on a range of lawmakers who have indicated their support for the coalition is expected to continue until the vote. The unprecedentedly diverse alliance of parties numbers 61 members in the 120-seat Knesset, and is thus vulnerable to any single defection.

At a faction meeting of his Likud party on Sunday, Netanyahu said he condemned all incitement and violence but claimed that his allies were being singled out unfairly for criticizing their political opponents.

Tal Schneider and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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