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'Would he also express himself in this way about a man?'

Silman said to accuse Bennett of portraying her as ‘a weak and stressed woman’

Former whip reportedly says PM trying to diminish the role ideology played in her decision to leave coalition

Idit Silman at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Idit Silman at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Former coalition whip Idit Silman has reportedly criticized Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for portraying her decision to leave the coalition as the result of immense pressure on her, and questioned whether the same insinuations would be made if she were a man.

“He is attempting to portray me as a weak and stressed woman who cannot stand the pressure, and trying to convey that the move was not ideological and did not stem from a solid position,” Silman told her associates, according to a Sunday report by the Kan public broadcaster.

“Would he also express himself in this way about a man? It is difficult for them to accept that ideologically they are flawed and that they have a problem,” she reportedly said, apparently referring to the government.

In her resignation letter earlier this month, Silman cited the continued “harming” of the Jewish identity in Israel as the main reason for her defection.

Bennett has not publicly criticized Silman, a member of his own party, for her decision to defect from the government, which has left it teetering.

However, earlier this month he told lawmakers from his party that Silman 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.

MK Idit Silman, the coalition chair, pictured with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during voting in the Knesset on the state budget, November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“She described to me the threats to the workplace of her husband and to the Bnei Akiva [youth group] of her kids. In the end, she broke,” Bennett said.

Silman was the target of threats, as some on the right accused her and the rest of the Yamina party of betraying the right 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’s comments against Bennett were reported just hours ahead of a Knesset hearing regarding his party’s request to oust rebel MK Amichai Chikli.

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset on June 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Chikli ran as part of Yamina in last year’s election, but refused to join the ruling coalition – and voted with the opposition when the coalition was sworn in last June — over its inclusion of the Islamist Arab party Ra’am. He has remained in the party, however, while opposing the government on numerous key votes.

Bennett’s Yamina previously held off on seeking to legally brand Chikli a defector, despite his rebellion, but earlier this month pushed ahead with the punitive measure, which would limit Chikli’s ability to run again or serve in certain capacities.

The move was seen as a bid to stop other MKs from bolting, after Silman left the coalition, depriving the government of its majority and leaving the Knesset deadlocked.

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