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Meretz petitions to disqualify Silman’s Likud run, claiming ‘gross violation’ of law

Left-wing party seeks to prevent former Yamina lawmaker, who was instrumental in bringing down government, from switching to Netanyahu’s party

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

MK Idit Silman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on June 13, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Idit Silman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on June 13, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Meretz party petitioned the Central Elections Committee on Monday to disqualify former Yamina MK Idit Silman from running with the Likud party in November’s election.

Silman’s defection from Yamina helped to bring down the coalition led by her own former party leader Naftali Bennett and current Prime Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid.

Meretz based its petition on Basic Law: The Knesset’s Section 6a, which states that a lawmaker who does not resign from her office immediately after leaving her party cannot run for Knesset with another sitting party. “Leaving” the party can include voting against the party’s position on expressing confidence in the government, if it was done with the promise of political compensation.

The point is likely to be hotly debated, because although Silman functionally abandoned her party and the coalition by publicly resigning in April, Yamina never formally expelled her from the party and Silman resigned from the Knesset last week in order to run with Likud. Additionally, she never voted no confidence against the government, but did prevent many of its key policies from advancing.

On Wednesday, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu used his discretion to award Silman the 16th spot on his party’s list.

Meretz said that her placement on Likud’s list is a “gross violation of the law,” causing “damage to the purity of the elections.”

Agreements in exchange for a promised spot in another party are prohibited, according to Section 57a of the Knesset Elections Law.

Meretz MKs have previously worked to punish Silman for leading to the coalition’s downfall. Last month, Meretz and other coalition lawmakers engineered an absurd scenario that resulted in Alternative Prime Minister Naftali Bennett quitting his own Yamina party in order to block Silman from being able to both run with an opposition party and keep her lawmaker’s status throughout the election period.

Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu poses with candidates he added to the Likud Knesset slate: (from left) Yossi Fuchs, Tsega Melaku, Idit Silman, Moshe Saada, and Amichai Chikli, September 14, 2022. (Courtesy)

Silman’s flirtation with Likud was seen long before it resulted in a plum spot on its election list, projected to safely deliver her back to the Knesset. In one of the most striking scenes, Silman was videotaped telling Likud faction director Yariv Levin that “I was good until the end,” as the government announced its own implosion.

Meretz is petitioning under a section of the law that might have applied to another former Yamina MK, Amichai Chikli, had he not quit the Knesset following his expulsion from Yamina. Instead, Chikli left Knesset after losing his High Court of Justice appeal; he was also placed high on the Likud list for the November 1 vote.

Chikli broke with Yamina in June 2021, in protest over the formation of the broad coalition with left-wing and Arab parties, and Yamina labeled him a defector from the party in April.

During the nearly four-month period between throwing the coalition into a tailspin and the government’s collapse, Silman refrained from participating in the majority of votes to avoid voting against the coalition, but still denied it a clear legislative majority. Silman’s resignation dropped the coalition below a majority and proved to be one of the main catalysts for the government’s fall this June.

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