Rebel Yamina MK promises to fight any attempt to eject him from party

Amichai Chikli says ‘those who dissented from Yamina in deep sense are those who lead it. Bennett is not part of the right’

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)
Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

Rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli said Saturday he intended to fight any attempt to declare him a dissenter and oust him from the party, despite voting against and attempting to foil virtually every move Yamina has made since the election.

Responding to unconfirmed reports that the party is seeking to break from him permanently, Chikli told Channel 13 that “From my point of view those who dissented from Yamina in the deep, essential sense are the four party members who lead it.” They “decided to break each and every promise they made to voters… It’s not moral or democratic to take the prime ministership with less than 10 parliamentary seats.”

Chikli asserted that it was not Bennett’s moral compass or his desire to bring Israel out of two years of political chaos and gridlock that had led him to form a government with centrist and left-wing parties, but rather a “lust for power” that had blinded Bennett and caused him to lose his good judgment.

“Bennett is not part of the national camp and is not part of the right,” Chikli said.

He further claimed, “The Israeli government is paying protection money to the Muslim Brotherhood,” a reference to the coalition’s reliance on the Islamist Ra’am party, which former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is widely reported to have also sought to make a deal with previously.

If Chikli is officially declared a dissenting MK, he will be barred from running in the next election under any party that is currently part of the Knesset.

Chikli voted against the coalition and with the opposition on every single vote during the marathon process of approving the 2021 state budget late Wednesday and early Thursday. The votes would have caused the government to fall if another single coalition member had switched sides, since Chikli’s rebellion reduced the coalition to 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat Knesset, the slimmest majority possible.

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli seen at the Knesset, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

Channel 12 news reported that Yamina has long contemplated formally declaring Chikli a dissenter, but avoided the move out of hope that they could work with him on some matters. But the network quoted Yamina officials as saying they now see no point in waiting any longer.

The report said such a declaration would signal to all coalition members that there would be no tolerance shown for a similar rebellion.

Yamina said in response that no decision had been made on the matter.

Chikli responded to the report with a scathing attack on Yamina.

“The Israeli nation is smart, and it knows very well who the real dissenters are,” he said in a statement. “Who presented a false reality and misled his voters while violating each and every one of his promises. Who stole the votes of tens of thousands of right-wing voters without blinking an eye to form a post-Zionist government. Who wanted too much to lead Israel, but will never get to truly do that.

“You can keep celebrating and declare me a dissenter, but deep inside, you know that those who dissented from any semblance of Yamina’s original ideology are you, and the truth will eventually prevail,” he concluded.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett blows a kiss at an opposition MK during a plenum session and a vote on the state budget in the Knesset, on November 3, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Chikli, who also voted against the establishment of the coalition in June, said Saturday that he would not vote with the coalition in favor of the budget, and indeed voted with the opposition during the Wednesday-Friday budget votes.

“I do not do the mathematics of self-interest, and there is no deal by which I will support the budget,” he told Channel 12.

Chikli claimed, with no evidence, that the money set aside in the budget for projects in the Arab community would be used for “radicalization.”

“It’s a very dangerous budget, NIS 30 billion is going to be managed by the Ra’am party and [its leader] Mansour Abbas, and that is a very bad thing,” he said, referring to the coalition member.

The Knesset passed Israel’s first budget in over three years this week, as Bennett’s coalition managed to overcome its internal differences and the opposition’s objections to approve a series of bills to guide the country’s spending until the end of 2022

Passing the budget was seen as a key test for Bennett’s eight-party coalition, both to prove that the ideologically disparate alliance can come together on major issues and because failure to pass the 2021 budget by a November 14 deadline would have triggered new elections automatically.

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