Renegade Yamina MK Silman: My decision to leave the coalition is final

Lawmaker stresses her move to opposition is based on values, urges fellow members of PM Bennett’s party to follow her lead, help form alternative ‘nationalist Zionist’ government

MK Idit Silman leads a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
MK Idit Silman leads a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Yamina party MK Idit Silman clarified Sunday that she has no intention of walking back her dramatic decision from last week to exit the coalition, a move that ended the government’s razor-thin majority in the Knesset, paralyzed its ability to pass legislation and left it near potential collapse.

“My decision to end my time in the coalition was based on values and therefore it is final,” she said in a statement.

The renegade MK called on her colleagues in the coalition and in the right-wing Yamina faction led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “to express the stance of the majority of the Israeli public and establish a national Zionist government within this Knesset.”

Her statement came a day after a fellow Yamina member, Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, said he hoped Silman would reverse her move.

“With God’s help, Idit could still return,” Kahana told Channel 12 news.

Silman announced her surprise departure from the coalition but not from the Knesset last week, saying the government was “harming” the Jewish identity of Israel.

Minister of Health and Head of the left wing Meretz party Nitzan Horowitz leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 03, 2021. (Yonatan SindelFlash90)

Her resignation came days after she publicly criticized Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz over his insistence that hospitals abide by rules allowing hametz — leavened products forbidden to religiously observant Jews over Passover — to be brought into facilities.

Over recent days, Horowitz reportedly sought to meet with Silman in order to reach an understanding on the issue of hametz in hospitals, according to Kan radio. According to Kan, the Meretz party chief clarified in a letter to Silman that he would be willing to go far to reach a compromise on this matter.

Kan also said that the health minister met with a senior Yamina politician and told them that his Meretz party is willing to do all it can to ensure that the coalition does not collapse.

However, political observers and Silman herself have said her departure was not over the hametz issue per se, but over what it represented — her feeling that Yamina was no longer representing its core values. It is also believed that intense right-wing pressure on Silman and her family played a part.

Silman’s defection left the government teetering on the brink of collapse with just 60 of 120 seats. In the opposition there are 54 MKs led by MK Benjamin Netanyahu plus another 6 MKs in the Joint List of mainly Arab parties, who are opposed to Netanyahu. Thus, despite the government now lacking a majority, it is not immediately apparent that there exists a majority to bring it down.

Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a right-wing rally in Jerusalem on April 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

The leader of the Joint List has said he will not commit to joining a no-confidence vote as it would assist Netanyahu in his goal of returning to power as prime minister.

Silman’s call to form a new government within the current Knesset would require several additional members of Yamina as well as other right-wing factions in the coalition, such as New Hope, to also defect and join with the right-wing opposition parties in order to reach the 61-seat majority needed.

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