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Rebel Yamina MK torpedoes ministerial nomination, handing coalition 2nd Knesset loss

Idit Silman votes against reappointment of Matan Kahana as religious affairs minister despite it being a vote of confidence, paving way for Yamina to oust her from party

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

MK Idit Silman at the Knesset on June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Idit Silman at the Knesset on June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the coalition’s attempt to reinstate Yamina MK Matan Kahana as religious affairs minister was thwarted by fellow party MK Idit Silman, who cast the deciding vote to block the appointment.

It was the first time Silman cast a key vote against the coalition since she resigned from it in early April. Earlier in the evening, Silman absented herself from a critical vote on a bill to renew the application of Israeli criminal and some civil law to settlers, a bill that also failed to pass.

The final tally for Kahana’s unsuccessful reappointment was 55 for to 55 against, one short of the simple majority to return him to his ministerial post.

Kahana, a former F-16 pilot, responded to the upset by tweeting that it was “a light strike on the wing.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads Kahana and Silman’s Yamina party, had requested that the vote on Kahana’s appointment twin as a motion of confidence in the coalition.

A failed motion of confidence carries no real consequences, according to legislative expert Chen Friedberg of the Israel Democracy Institute. However, it can be used to build the case against Silman as a defector from her party.

Then-Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana attends a Knesset House Committee hearing to declare MK Amichai Chikli a defector from his Yamina party, April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A formal designation assigned by the Knesset House Committee — of which Silman was a member before being removed last month — a “defector” label carries significant personal sanctions. Among them, defector MKs cannot run in the next elections with an existing Knesset faction, something that will likely cripple Silman’s political career.

In April, Yamina took the step to oust former party MK Amichai Chikli, who had functionally operated as part of the opposition since voting against the formation of the same government his party now tenuously leads.

Silman, the coalition’s former whip, dramatically resigned from the political alliance in April over what she said were ideological disputes. Her departure ended the coalition’s majority, and it now sits at a 60-60 seat parity with the opposition.

Kahana resigned his ministry in May in order to return as a voting member of Knesset under the so-called “Norwegian Law,” which permits ministers to be replaced by another party member upon taking up their ministerial posts. Since then, the ministerial portfolio has temporarily moved under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Kahana has served as deputy religious affairs minister.

While the opposition successfully blocked Monday’s key votes — on the settler law and reappointing Kahana — other legislation was permitted to pass. That included a first reading of a bill to grant disabled persons access to welfare services and tax benefits for Tama 38, a housing renovation program.

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