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Rebel Yamina MK rails at Bennett’s ‘lust for power’ as party moves to oust him

Amichai Chikli accuses PM of ‘unprecedented breach of voters’ trust,’ as government he opposes faces possible collapse after fellow party member quit coalition

MK Amichai Chikli at a conference organized by the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Amichai Chikli at a conference organized by the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rebel Yamina party MK Amichai Chikli on Saturday hit out at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after the party moved to oust him, as the government stood on the brink of potential collapse following another party member’s defection from the coalition this week.

Chikli ran in last year’s elections with Yamina but quickly broke with the party over the inclusion of the Islamist Ra’am faction in the coalition. He remained in Yamina, but did not join the coalition and regularly opposed it on key votes — including the initial vote of confidence in the coalition last June.

Despite his rebellion, the party had so far refrained from seeking to oust Chikli. But on Thursday it moved to do so after Yamina MK Idit Silman quit the coalition, causing the government to lose its narrow parliamentary majority.

The step was seen as a warning to Silman and any other MK who may consider jumping ship after her.

According to Chikli, he was informed of Yamina’s intention to brand him a defector after landing in Moldova as an emissary for a volunteer first responder organization that has been assisting refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“And who is declaring [me a defector]? One whose lust for power led him to an unprecedented breach of the voters’ trust,” Chikli wrote on Twitter.

He added: “I will continue on the path we swore to our voters to uphold at any price.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at a military base, near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, on April 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Chikli’s ouster must still be okayed by the Knesset House Committee, which is headed by Yamina MK Nir Orbach. However, it is not yet clear that it will pass. Orbach has himself put forward several right-wing demands to remain in the government and is one of several Yamina MKs considered as having the potential to follow Silman in breaking with the coalition.

If approved, his ouster could be a blow to Chikli’s political aspirations, as Knesset rules would prevent him from running with any faction currently sitting in the parliament in the next elections, which — if the government collapses without an alternative proposal from the opposition — could be declared soon.

Chikli, however, could potentially form a new political faction, something he has recently hinted that he is considering.

According to a report Friday, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the No. 2 in Yamina, held talks this week about joining Likud after Silman quit the coalition.

Shaked, who is Bennett’s long-time political partner, ultimately decided not to jump ship after agreeing with Orbach and Kara to try to take another crack at shoring up the government, Channel 12 news reported.

Ayelet Shaked (L) and Idit Silman (R) at the Knesset, on March 10, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The coalition — an unlikely alliance of eight disparate parties — has been scrambling to keep other possible renegades in line and to project stability, even as it teeters on the brink of collapse following Silman’s departure.

With Silman exiting the coalition but not the Knesset, Bennett’s government holds just 60 of 120 seats. The paths forward for the coalition and the Knesset are not immediately clear, with a new election seen as the most likely outcome, but the timeline still uncertain.

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