Bennett: Bibi activists threatened Silman before she left coalition

Bennett and Lapid to meet over coalition crisis • Netanyahu congratulates Silman's decision

From left to right: MK Idit Silman (Yamina), Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - NOAM MOSKOWITZ)
From left to right: MK Idit Silman (Yamina), Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - NOAM MOSKOWITZ)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated that MK Idit Silman had been threatened by supporters of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Religious Zionist head Betzalel Smotrich until she "broke" and left the coalition on Wednesday.

"Idit was persecuted for months, verbally abused by supporters of Bibi and Smotrich at the most horrific level," said Bennett on Wednesday evening. "She described to me the threats against her husband Shmulik's workplace and her children in Bnei Akiva. She broke in the end."

The prime minister stressed that the "main thing we need to deal with at the moment is stabilizing the faction and the coalition." Bennett added that all the leaders in the coalition are interested in continuing the current government.

"There is an opportunity here to take this event, learn from it and correct the gaps that have been created," said Bennett. "The whole government was founded on maintaining the status quo - and not on making sharp movements."

 Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett speaks with MK Idit Silman a discussion on the Electricity Law connecting to Arab and Bedouin towns, during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 5, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett speaks with MK Idit Silman a discussion on the Electricity Law connecting to Arab and Bedouin towns, during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 5, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Bennett warned that the alternative to the current coalition is more elections and possibly multiple rounds of elections, "back to the days of dangerous instability for the State of Israel."

Polls forecast difficulties in forming a new coalition

According to a poll by Channel 13, the Likud would earn 38 seats, Religious Zionist would earn eight seats and Shas and UTJ would earn seven seats. This would mean that Netanyahu's bloc could earn 60 seats.

Meanwhile, Yesh Atid would earn 17 seats, Blue and White would earn nine seats and Yamina would earn seven seats. Labor and Yisrael Beytenu would earn six seats. Meretz would earn five seats and Ra'am would earn four seats. New Hope would not pass the electoral threshold and would not enter the Knesset.

The Joint List would earn six seats.

According to a poll by KAN news, if elections were held today, the Likud Party would rise to 35 seats, the Religious Zionist party would rise to eight seats, Shas would sit at eight seats and United Torah Judaism would sit at seven seats.

Meanwhile, among coalition parties, Yesh Atid would rise to 19 seats, Yamina would fall to six seats and Blue and White would stay at eight seats. The Meretz Party would fall to five seats as would New Hope. The Labor Party would lose two seats and fall to five seats. Ra'am would receive four seats and Yisrael Beytenu would earn just three seats.

The Joint List would sit at six seats.

According to a poll by N12, if elections were held today, the Likud Party would rise to 35 seats, the Religious Zionist party would earn seven seats, Shas would sit at nine seats and United Torah Judaism would sit at seven seats.

Meanwhile, among coalition parties, Yesh Atid would earn 17 seats, Yamina would fall to five seats and Blue and White would stay at eight seats. The Labor Party would sit at seven seats. The Meretz Party, Yisrael Beytenu and Ra'am would both sit at five seats. New Hope would earn just four seats.

The Joint List would sit at seven seats.

Silman: I can’t take it anymore

Silman said after she resigned from the coalition that she "could not take it anymore," and that she could not continue undermining the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, a reference to a disagreement she had with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz over allowing chametz (leavened grain products) into hospitals over Passover. 

Netanyahu congratulated Silman on her decision, thanking her "in the name of many people in Israel who waited for this moment."

"I call on everyone who was elected with the votes of the nationalist bloc to join Idit and return home – you will be received with all due respect and open arms," he concluded.

However, Labor MK Gilad Kariv said it was clear that the disagreement over the chametz was "not the real issue," adding that the government was always careful when it came to matters of religion and state.

Silman ditched the coalition after she was reportedly offered the 10th spot in the Likud Party list in a future election and the position of Health Minister should the party - led by Benjamin Netanyahu - successfully form an alternative government.

IN HER resignation letter to the prime minister, Silman said that she had "joined the current coalition out of a genuine desire to produce unity and closeness on the basis of the common good that unites us as a people and as a state. I honestly believed that in this way we would be able to realize the ideals with which we set out.

"How I tried to preserve the togetherness – to find the common denominator and in this way to realize the important tasks that lay ahead of us," she said. "Some of our partners, who hold key positions in the coalition, probably see things differently and are not prepared to make any compromises."

But now her core values are "inconsistent with the current reality," she said, adding that she is "attentive to the voices from outside and to the sincere protest of the electorate, whose support let us win and with whose votes we were elected."

She concluded by calling on the section of the right-wing which supports the coalition to "admit the truth," and admit that they tried and failed. 

"It's time to recalibrate our route. To try and establish a national, Jewish, Zionist government. Let us join hands and realize the values for which we have been elected."

Maariv reporter Anna Ravya Barsky reported via Twitter that several senior coalition members were aware of this decision for at least a week, and it did not come as a surprise to them.

Silman joins MK Amichai Chikli in rebelling against the Yamina Party. Chikli has voted against the government on multiple occasions, starting with opposing the formation of the coalition last June.

Following threats on social media as a result of her resignation, it was reported that Silman's security detail was increased.

Bennett, who heads Yamina, was not aware of Silman's decision and was taken by surprise on Wednesday morning. He canceled his planned schedule for the day in order to deal with the fallout from her resignation.

Bennett was set to meet with alternate prime minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as well.

Response from the coalition

Bennett, who heads Yamina, was not aware of Silman's decision and was taken by surprise on Wednesday morning. He canceled his planned schedule for the day in order to deal with the fallout from her resignation.

Bennett was set to meet with alternate prime minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Early Wednesday afternoon, he met with Yamina MK Nir Orbach and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Yamina, and will meet with the remaining Yamina politicians throughout the afternoon.

Kariv said that he "very much hopes that at the end of the day Idit Silman will take it back – she is the chair of the coalition. This move can only lead to one result and that is a general election. The last thing Israeli society needs at the moment is another election campaign."

Coalition chairwoman Idit Silman (L) and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) at the Knesset, 3 November 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Coalition chairwoman Idit Silman (L) and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) at the Knesset, 3 November 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Cracks in Yamina Party

Early Wednesday afternoon, he met with Yamina MK Nir Orbach and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Yamina, and will meet with the remaining Yamina politicians throughout the afternoon.

Kariv said that he "very much hopes that at the end of the day Idit Silman will take it back – she is the chair of the coalition. This move can only lead to one result and that is a general election. The last thing Israeli society needs at the moment is another election campaign."

Orbach attacked Bennett for using the term "West Bank" during a meeting between members of the faction on Wednesday.

"It is inconceivable that you used the term 'West Bank,'" said Orbach, according to N12. "It has nothing to do with the other parties in the coalition. This is just paying a price with our ideological house, you put me in an impossible situation."

According to Ynet, multiple members of Yamina attacked Bennett during the meeting, saying "from all the Biden, Putin and Zelensky (an apparent reference to the prime minister's mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine) - he's forgetting about their wars in the Knesset."

Despite the attacks, a source who was at the meeting told Ynet that "The feeling is that the bleeding has stopped, and despite Orbach and [MK Abir] Kara's poignant remarks to Bennett, it does not appear that they will do anything of the Silman kind, or any other dramatic move any time soon."

Kara reportedly met with Silman and Amichai Chikli, who had already split from Yamina, on Wednesday as well, according to N12. Kara told Bennett that he had met with Silman in order to convince her not to leave.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates MK Idit Silman on her decision to resign from the coalition. (CREDIT: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON)

Response from the coalition

Meretz MK Yair Golan called Silman a "political opportunist of the inferior kind" and said she was putting the stability of the coalition at risk.

Speaking to 103FM, Yamina Secretary General Stella Weinstein said she was surprised by the news. 

"It seemed to be in the air, but my friend Idit Silman usually does things in a much more measured way. I know we will work hard to overcome this hurdle too, and with hard work, I'm sure it will be OK."

MK Merav Ben-Ari (Yesh Atid) called Silman's decision irresponsible and "a great pity."

Also reacting to the news, Meretz MK Mossi Raz warned that "Israel is in danger of a corrupt nationalist government of Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu and Smotrich."

Response from the opposition

Likud faction head Yariv Levin congratulated Silman on her decision, saying she did the right thing and that she is "saving the State of Israel from a dangerous and unprecedented process of deep damage to the Jewish character of the state and the foundations of its existence."

According to Likud Party officials, Silman is not the only coalition member to have been considering resignation, and they have said that they are hopeful that others will soon follow her lead.

Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich called Silman's resignation "the dawn of a new day," and said it was the "beginning of the end for Bennett's non-Zionist left-wing government."

Joint List chairman Sami Abou Shahadeh (Balad) also responded to the news, saying that the best scenario for the Joint List would be to go to elections once more, insisting that his party would not be a safety net, "not for Bennett and not for Netanyahu." His party will convene and consider their options when proceeding, he said, adding that "the Likud cannot count on our votes."

United Torah Judaism head Moshe Gafni responded to the events with an apparent dig aimed at Netanyahu, saying that the opposition needed to take stock of which MK "is the most deserving and has the most chance of forming a government" in the event that the coalition dissolves.

However, he later claimed that his statement had not been intended that way.

Groups of right-wing political activists across the country have taken to the street with signs in support of Silman and calls for a right-wing government to be formed. A right-wing rally in Jerusalem was planned for Wednesday night.