Meretz lawmaker vows to again vote against settler law

Yamina rebel said threatening fellow party member if she’s declared a defector

Report says Idit Silman told coalition figure that she’ll release files on Nir Orbach if Bennett’s party seeks to punish her for defecting: ‘He’ll come out of this finished’

Illustrative: rebel Yamina MK Idit Silman chairs a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: rebel Yamina MK Idit Silman chairs a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rebel Knesset member Idit Silman has threatened to release purportedly damaging details about a fellow Yamina lawmaker if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s party moves to declare her a defector, Israeli television reported Friday.

According to Channel 12 news, Silman said that she possesses “all of” MK Nir Orbach’s correspondence and reports from his time as a member of the national religious Jewish Home party. Silman also used to be part of Jewish Home, which was once led by Bennett.

“Other people have also given me additional materials… Nir will come out of this finished,” Silman was quoted as telling what the network described as a “significant coalition figure.”

“Nobody wants these things on the outside. I left the coalition and I didn’t say bad things about the people I worked with. I am very cautious, but don’t play with me,” she reportedly added.

The network said several complaints calling for a police investigation of Silman over the reported threats were submitted to the attorney general.

The report came amid growing calls for Silman to be officially ousted from the party or face other sanctions, after voting early Tuesday to block the re-appointment of Yamina’s Matan Kahana as religious affairs minister.

Prior to that vote, Silman had avoided directly opposing Yamina since quitting the coalition in April, as being formally labeled a defector would crimp her prospects in the next elections. Silman’s removal as chair of the Knesset Health Committee has also been floated as an option for punishing her.

Nir Orbach and Idit Silman talk during a Knesset plenum vote in Jerusalem on June 1, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In April, following Silman’s resignation from the coalition, Yamina ousted rebel MK Amichai Chikli.

“There is nothing uglier and less legitimate than this…this is not even a matter of politics. Who threatens? This is unbearable, unacceptable, outrageous,” Transportation Minister Meirav Michaeli said in response.

Orbach himself has been rumored as another potential defector and met with Bennett on Thursday evening to discuss the matter as the ruling coalition flounders. The two later issued a joint statement saying the conversation was “good” and would continue Sunday.

Meanwhile, Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi vowed Friday to again vote against a bill extending civil rights to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which several MKs helped defeat Monday. The measure, which has been renewed every five years since 1967, is due to expire on June 30.

MK Rinawie Zoabi at a plenum session at the Knesset on June 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I mainly expected Meretz to stand on its feet, particularly in regards to Judea and Samaria,” she said to Kan, referring to the West Bank areas by their Biblical names. “Under no circumstance is there any chance I will support the bill.”

Rinawie Zoabi has faced calls to resign from the Knesset since Monday’s vote, but said “nobody has spoken to me directly” regarding the matter.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who heads Meretz, called on Rinawie Zoabi to give up her Knesset seat if she won’t back the coalition on key votes.

“She needs to give up her position and we can move on. This is the right and fair thing to do,” he told Radio 103FM on Friday.

The back and forth between Rinawie Zoabi and Horowitz came as right-wing members of the coalition, including Yamina and New Hope lawmakers, have become increasingly frustrated with some MKs in Meretz and Ra’am who have refused to back legislation agreed upon by the government.

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