Closer to new elections? Yamina lawmaker quits government, coalition loses majority

If one more coalition MK resigns, Israel will head to its fifth round of elections in five years.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Coalition whip Idit Silman of the Yamina party resigned from the government on Wednesday morning, announcing in a statement that she could no longer support damaging the Jewish identity of Israel.

“I tried unity, as someone who comes from the world of common good, I worked hard for the current coalition,” said Silman in her statement.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to support harming the Jewish character of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. You aren’t aware of everything, because I tried doing things quietly.”

Notably, Silman added that “we can form a new government already, in the current Knesset.”

It appears that Silman is suggesting Yamina partner with Likud or other right-wing parties in order to continue governing,without its left-wing coalition partners or the Islamist Ra’am party.

Although the Knesset is currently on spring recess and there is no pending legislation, Silman’s departure means that the current ruling coalition has lost its razor-thin 61 MK majority out of 120 seats, and that in the future, it would need to depend on votes from opposition lawmakers.

If one more lawmaker resigns, the Knesset will be dissolved and Israel will head to an unprecedented fifth round of national elections in a five-year span.

Silman’s dramatic announcement came on the heels of a highly publicized spat with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz over the issue of visitors bringing chametz (unleavened bread products) into public hospitals during the Passover holiday.

The disagreement stemmed from Horowitz ordering hospitals to respect a Supreme Court decision permitting the entry of chametz into hospitals during the holiday.

Hebrew-language media reports indicated that Silman’s resignation came as a surprise to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, while others said that senior government officials have been aware of her intentions for a week already.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Silman for her “courageous move” and has reportedly offered her the 10th slot on Likud’s party list and the position of health minister, should she defect to the party.

MK Betzalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party said Silman’s resignation marked “a new day” in Israeli politics. He urged other right-wing MKs in the current ruling coalition to follow suit.

Silman’s left-wing coalition partners reacted with a mix of surprise and fury to the announcement.

Far-left Meretz MK Yair Golan, who has called Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria “subhuman and despicable,” said that Silman is “an opportunist of the worst kind.”

MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) was aghast at the development, saying that Israel was now “in danger of a corrupt nationalist government” headed by Netanyahu and right-wing MK Itamar Ben-Gvir.

MK Gilad Kariv of the Labor party, a reform rabbi, suggested that chametz in hospitals “isn’t the real reason” for Silman’s departure and that he hoped a compromise could be reached to keep her in the government.