Report: MK Silman to oppose bill renewing application of Israeli law to settlers

As it currently stands, coalition does not have enough votes to pass legislation justice minister has said is critical for government’s survival

Yamina MKs Nir Orbach and Idit Silman talk in the Knesset on June 1, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yamina MKs Nir Orbach and Idit Silman talk in the Knesset on June 1, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yamina lawmaker and former coalition whip Idit Silman has told coalition leaders she will vote against a bill to renew the extension of civil and criminal law to Israelis living in the West Bank, according to a report by Israel Hayom Thursday.

If true, this would appear to leave the struggling coalition without the parliamentary majority required to pass the bill.

The report said Silman stressed her decision was final and will not change even if it means she is declared a defector from her party.

The bill is being spearheaded by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who warned earlier this week that the government’s future could depend on the passage of the technical but controversial bill.

On Wednesday, the left-wing Meretz party said it would back the bill, citing coalition agreements that mandate not making any major changes in the status quo regarding the Palestinians, a key component of the pact holding the disparate government together.

However, the bill is still opposed by the Islamist Ra’am party of the coalition. Ra’am has remained tight-lipped about how it will vote on the bill, but it generally opposes the fact that settlers are granted rights withheld from Palestinians.

L-R: Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, MK Idit Silman and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar attend a plenary session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 28, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Even if Sa’ar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett do manage to convince Ra’am to support the bill, this will only amount to 60 votes — not enough to pass the legislation if all opposition MKs vote against it.

The bill, if passed, would renew an emergency measure extending Israeli criminal law and certain key civil laws — such as income tax and health insurance — to Israelis living in the West Bank. Though Israel has not annexed the West Bank, the measure ensures that settlers living there are treated as though they live in Israel in most matters, without extending those same legal arrangements to Palestinians.

Originally enacted in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the law remains an “emergency measure” that must be renewed every five years. Last passed in 2017, it is set to expire at the end of June.

Sa’ar, whose right-wing New Hope party supports settlements and opposes Palestinian statehood, told Kan that unless the measure passes, Israeli settlers will become subject to Israel’s military justice system, which is based on Jordanian law. He said such a situation had never occurred in Israeli history.

“It will create chaos for justice matters in Judea and Samaria,” he has said, using a biblical term for the West Bank. “It will harm the territory’s connection to Israel and Israeli law and will harm some 500,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar arrives at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

While the Likud-led right-religious bloc within the opposition supports the renewal in principle, it has vowed not to vote with the coalition in order to pass it, having pledged to oppose any government-sponsored legislation regardless of content in its bid to bring down the government.

According to a poll released over the weekend, the opposition led by Benjamin Netanyahu is gaining ground with voters, and inching closer to being able to win a majority in the Knesset.

The Channel 12 survey also found that most Israelis think the current government will collapse within six months, and that more Israelis support Netanyahu for prime minister than any other candidate.

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