Israel's coalition crisis: Silman, the coalition rebel, can decide its fate - analysis

Yamina MK Idit Silman, who resigned from the coalition, is stuck between a rock and hard place regarding Monday's seminal bill.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Idit Silman seen in better days for them at a Knesset plenum session last July.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Idit Silman seen in better days for them at a Knesset plenum session last July.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

When former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman bolted to the opposition two months ago, she thought she would immediately bring down Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government and be welcomed as a hero by her right-wing constituency.

But when no one followed her and the government stayed alive, she was seen as a contractor who did not finish her work or, worse, a martyr who only succeeded in injuring her intended victim.

Two months later, on the most ironic of bills, Silman held the key and got her revenge against those who mocked her. Silman’s readiness to vote against the West Bank emergency bill dealt the coalition another critical blow, while potentially causing enormous harm to residents of Judea and Samaria in the process.

Even if all four Ra’am (United Arab List) MKs and Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi agreed to reaffirm a directive giving Israel legal jurisdiction over Israelis living in the West Bank, the coalition still would have needed Silman to leave the room during the vote, as she has for all controversial legislation since her rebellion.

What will Silman do?

Silman had been a cautious rebel, because she was deterred by the formal declaration of fellow rebel Yamina MK Amchai Chikli as a defector. The last thing she wanted was to be similarly blocked from running with Likud or the religious-Zionist Party in the next election.

 Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas in the Knesset.  (credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images) Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas in the Knesset. (credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

So why would she break that pattern now?

Because the Likud upped the stakes and declared last Monday that no more government-sponsored bills would obtain the opposition's support.

Silman faced pressure from both sides of the aisle.

For her vote against the coalition, she will immediately be brought to trial in the Knesset House Committee and punished. Her expected vote against the confidence motion on appointing MK Matan Kahana as a minister strengthened the case against Silman. It is possible that the real reason the bill was rushed to a vote when there were still four more weeks to pass it was to trap Silman and get her out of the way.

But Silman also knew that if she defied the opposition, the Likud could break its promise of a reserved slot on the party’s list. She received guarantees that the Likud could change the law to reverse her defection designation.

Silman could not use the ideological reason of protecting residents of Judea and Samaria to allow the bill’s passage because settler leaders lobbied her to vote against the bill. Veteran settler leaders Pinhas Wallerstein, Ze’ev Hever and Meir Indoor came to the Knesset and pressured her and other MKs.

For those reasons, Silman decided to embark on the second half of her rebellion. Whether she will be rewarded remains to be seen.