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Claims the next resignation 'is only a matter of time'

Silman publicly urges her friends in Yamina and New Hope to quit coalition

Renegade MK insists her resignation due to government violating status quo on Sabbath and other religion and state issues; TV report alleges husband Shmulik behind recent moves

Idit Silman, then-head of the Arrangements Committee, leads a Committee meeting at the Knesset, November 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Idit Silman, then-head of the Arrangements Committee, leads a Committee meeting at the Knesset, November 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

In her first televised interview since resigning from the coalition, Yamina MK Idit Silman said Monday that the “gradual erosion” of Israel’s Jewish identity under the watch of the current government led her to quit.

The former coalition whip claimed that the status quo regarding the public upholding of the Sabbath, along with other issues pertaining to religion and state, has been violated by the government and that nobody from within is stopping it from taking place.

“Nobody is prepared to stand up to the Yisrael Beytenu party… on kashrut, conversion, the Reform Western Wall, the Temple Mount, on Torah study,” Silman told Channel 12, listing issues on which the government has sought to enact reform.

Her break with the coalition last month came days after she publicly criticized Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz over his insistence that hospitals abide by rules allowing hametz — leavened products forbidden by religiously observant Jews over Passover — to be brought into facilities. Many took notice of the criticism, noting that as coalition whip, whose job is to keep lawmakers on the same page, she normally avoided public spats within the fractious alliance.

Silman also claimed in the interview that she was not promised anything in exchange for resigning from the coalition. Channel 12’s website reported that this denial came despite what it said was a meeting she held with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hours before she announced her resignation.

Silman, by contrast, said she was offered a good deal in exchange for staying.

“I could have gotten anything I wanted here and now,” said the former coalition whip, adding that she “followed [her] heart” and gave up “the job of my life” by resigning.

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

According to Hebrew media reports, Silman’s departure from the coalition as a renegade MK was engineered by Likud, which agreed to grant her the number 10 position on the party slate, as well as the job of health minister, if it forms the next government.

While she admitted to having been under immense criticism for remaining in the government, Silman argued that it took “a lot of courage” to leave the coalition.

She added that those who have intensely criticized her and her family in recent months did so from a place of pain, after Yamina violated its election promises.

Bennett has not publicly criticized Silman for her decision to defect from the government, but earlier this month told lawmakers from his party that she quit due to the unbearable pressure she faced from opposition lawmakers and their supporters.

“Idit suffered persecution for months, verbal harassment at the worst level” by supporters of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich, he said.

Silman was the target of threats, as some on the right accused her and the rest of the Yamina party of betraying their voters by forming a unity government to oust Netanyahu after 12 years of rule. She said she received explicit threats to the lives of her and her family, and last year said she was physically harassed at a gas station.

Silman has also faced sexism from opposition lawmakers. Last year, she was told to “answer like a good girl” in a comment by Likud MK Miki Zohar that immediately caused a backlash. Coalition lawmakers condemned Zohar for the chauvinism and the lawmaker later apologized to Silman, saying his comment came “in the heat of the moment.”

That incident came just days after MK Meir Porush, from the opposition United Torah Judaism party, called Silman “a little girl” during a committee meeting.

Silman, in her interview Monday, justified her decision to leave the coalition, saying Yamina voters “got the opposite” of what they were promised before the election.

“This government has lost its way,” she said.

Asked who will be defecting next, Silman responded that the next resignation “is only a matter of time.”

“The government is living on borrowed time… It’s not only that it has no Knesset majority, it has no majority among the people.” she said.

Turning to “her friends” in the Yamina and New Hope right-wing coalition parties, Silman said, “The country is important and its fate is in your hands.

“The train has already left the station,” Silman added, urging them to quit.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Silman’s defection left the government teetering on the brink of collapse with just 60 of 120 Knesset seats. In the opposition, meanwhile, 54 MKs are aligned with the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu, and 6 MKs are in the Joint List of mainly Arab parties, which is opposed to Netanyahu. Thus, despite the government now lacking a majority, it is not immediately apparent that there are enough votes to bring it down.

Joint List head Ayman Odeh 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.

Forming a new government within the current Knesset — without an election — would require several additional members of the coalition to defect, potentially from the right-wing Yamina or New Hope. The opposition has been ramping up efforts over the past week to convince some members of the coalition to follow Silman’s lead.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 news on Monday published alleged testimonies by people close to Silman who claimed that most of her political decisions, from legislation to her bolting from the coalition, were engineered by her husband, Shmulik Silman.

“Shmulik is involved in everything,” a source close to Silman’s office told Channel 13.

“He dictates everything to her even though they don’t agree ideologically on issues. He drafts bills for her, calls her office, checks what the schedule is for tomorrow, makes comments, demands that the staff put in certain meetings, and she eventually gives in to what he dictates. She often says about certain critical things that Shmulik needs to hear first to see what he thinks.”

Channel 13 showed an interview with Silman last June before the government was sworn in, showing Shmulik interrupting the interview after certain questions.

Yamina MK Idit Silman arrives with her husband Shmulik for the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Coalition sources quoted in the report said that Shmulik would arrive with Silman at her office in Knesset on a regular basis and even attend meetings.

“We arrived at the meeting and suddenly she comes with him; we did not understand what he was doing there,” said the officials. “She said many times that her husband did not agree with the government, and it would have been better had it not been formed.”

“In the end, she’s a public figure and not him,” said a source close to Silman.

“She signed off on her conflicts of interest and not him, and we can’t know under what conflict of interests he was. There were times she asked for meetings and we asked her why, and she said, ‘Shmulik knows him, he thinks we should meet with him and hear what he wants.’ It is completely fine for a couple to consult and share their work, but when it comes to matters of state, this is a very serious problem.”

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