Bennett’s coalition shaky as Silman says her decision to go is final

Yamina MK Idit Silman urged her coalition partners to take steps to help replace the existing government with a right-wing one without bringing down the government.

 Idit Silman, head of the Health Committee leads a Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on November 16, 2021. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Idit Silman, head of the Health Committee leads a Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on November 16, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government remained shaky at 60 seats on Sunday, as Yamina MK Nir Orbach’s ultimatum had yet to be met and Yamina MK Idit Silman said her decision to resign from the coalition was final.

“The decision to part ways with the current coalition was based on my values and is, therefore, final,” Silman said.

She urged her coalition partners to take steps to help replace the existing government with a right-wing one without bringing down the government.

“I call on all members of the coalition and the [Yamina] faction to help bring to fruition the will of the majority of the Israeli public and to create a Zionist and nationalist government within the existing Knesset,” Silman said.

Her words appeared to end a push by coalition members to sway her to rescind the resignation she announced last Wednesday. It was a move that sent shock waves through Bennett’s coalition and opened the door to its collapse either through new elections or a move to replace it with a right-wing bloc of 61 parliamentarians.

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett speaks with MK Idit Silman in the Knesset in January. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett speaks with MK Idit Silman in the Knesset in January. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The greatest danger to Bennett’s coalition comes from members of his own Yamina Party, who are under pressure from their supporters and right-wing politicians to follow in Silman’s footsteps and resign.

“The Yamina Party is not falling apart,” Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana told reporters Sunday. “Yamina wants the government to continue. This government is doing important things for the citizens of Israel. All the members of Yamina are continuing.”

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the opposition and the Likud Party, called on all right-wing politicians in the coalition to leave, particularly after Meretz ministers opposed government steps to revoke National Insurance Institute benefits to family members of terrorists.

“Those who were chosen by right-wing votes can’t remain another moment in a weak and dangerous government that is dependent on terrorism,” said Netanyahu, who is pushing to form a 61-member bloc to replace Bennett but lacks the support to do so.

At 60 parliamentarians out of 120, Bennett no longer has a majority. But neither does Netanyahu despite his party’s behind-the-scenes efforts to garner additional support.

The Right holds 52 seats in the current Knesset, so it would need support from outside to successfully hold a vote to disperse the Knesset and hold new elections or to replace the Bennett government with an alternative 61-member bloc.

The six-seat opposition Joint List, made up mostly of Arab-Israeli parliamentarians, dislikes Netanyahu even more than it opposes Bennett, and it appears to have no interest in taking steps to restore Netanyahu to the premiership he held for 12 years until he was ousted in 2021.

“I believe Netanyahu is the most dangerous person in the country,” Joint List head Ayman Odeh told Channel 12’s Meet the Press Saturday night, adding that he would not take steps to restore Netanyahu to power.

“Those who think we will be partners to a constructive no-confidence motion are mistaken,” he said.

Odeh said his party was “hostage” to a situation in which it was stuck between a fascist or a pro-settlement option.

Nevertheless, he said he did not believe Bennett’s government would last long and that it could fall even before the Knesset resumes in May. Members of Yamina would leave it like “rats from a sinking ship,” Odeh predicted.

If Netanyahu wants to replace Bennett, he needs the support of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party, plus a breakaway faction of three members of the Yamina Party. At present, Netanyahu has neither.

So far, two members of the seven-member Yamina Party could go with Netanyahu: MK Amichai Chikli, who was never part of the coalition, and Silman, but only if they are joined by a third Yamina parliamentarian, something that has not happened yet.

Those who could join such a faction would be MKs Nir Orbach and Abir Kara and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. Orbach is waiting to see if his demands on the settlements are met. He demands convening the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria and connecting West Bank settler outposts to electricity.

Both steps would need Gantz’s approval, something he has yet to grant.

Gantz’s Blue and a White Party, however, does not seem to be in a rush to leave Bennett for Netanyahu or to push for new elections.

At 60 MKs, Bennett still had a majority because his coalition had a larger bloc of parliamentarians than the right-wing opposition, Blue and White faction head Eitan Ginzburg told Radio 103.

It was unlikely the government could be dispersed or changed during the Knesset recess, he said, adding that the monthlong hiatus until it reconvenes in May allows time for the situation to stabilize.

“A month in politics is a long time,” and “many things can happen in this time,” he added.

The Higher Planning Council had met in the past and would meet again, and Gantz was not preventing it from meeting, Ginzburg said.

The issue of connecting electricity to outposts needs to be evaluated by a professional staff, he said, adding that these are decisions with security implications.

“The important thing is that there will be a government here that will function for the citizens,” Ginzburg said.