Yamina MK Amichai Chikli will consider forming a new party if he is declared a hostile rebel who has left without following proper procedure, he told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview on Saturday night.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition will face a key test on Monday morning when the Knesset House Committee convenes to consider Bennett's request on Chikli. The proposal is expected to pass despite a boycott of the vote by Ra'am (United Arab List).
Chikli sent the committee a list of 98 campaign promises broken by Bennett, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and other Yamina ministers and MKs. He said there was no legal basis for calling him a rebel, which he said was a procedure legislated to block MKs from defecting in return for political appointments.
"We are ready for a legal battle," he said. "I don't fit the category of rebel, because I didn't trade my ideology for any post or have 50 million shekels of renovations done on my home like Bennett. He offered me any job possible to quit the Kneset and enable his tricking the public. But I've remained a simple MK with no driver and no special conditions."
Chikli said he had not asked the Likud for a reserved slot on the party list, which made the rebel label even less relevant for him. By law, if he is declared a rebel he could not run for the next Knesset with any current Knesset faction unless he quits the Knesset immediately, but he could form or join a new party.
"If they get a majority and declare me a rebel, I don't remove from the table the option of establishing a new party that will fill the gap created by Yamina and New Hope not delivering the goods and turning out to be left-wing parties," he said. "There needs to be another party on the Right beyond Likud and the Religious Zionist Party. There is a liberal, Zionist, traditional public looking for a new framework and I could join one or form one."
Chikli said he will only decide when there are elections on the way. Bennett's step against Chikli is intended to deter former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman and other potential rebels from voting against the coalition. Party leaders will meet on Sunday with Bennett to coordinate a strategy for passing the proposal.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Mimouna celebration in Or Akiva on Saturday night that he sensed new hope that he would soon return to power and "get the country back on the right course."
United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni said in a holiday interview with Walla News that he is strongly against holding elections. He said he would prefer that a new right-wing government be formed in the current Knesset.
The statement was seen as a threat to Netanyahu that UTJ could push for him to be replaced as Likud leader so a new Likud chairman could form a government.
Netanyahu's son, Yair, will face a libel trial on Sunday at Tel Aviv's Magistrate's Court for statements he made against the Crime Minister movement that protested his father. Yair is expected to take the stand and be questioned by Crime Minister's attorneys.