With a sharp step, coalition whip Idit Silman announced on Wednesday that he was leaving the coalition and would instead work to form a new government.
Silman’s statement, which she said was linked to “damage” to Jewish identity in Israel, means the coalition no longer has a majority.
“I will not contribute to damaging the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. I will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and form a right-wing government, ”she said in a statement. “I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Another government may be formed in this Knesset. “
Silman reportedly had not previously informed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of Yamin’s party, of which she is a member, of the move, leaving the prime minister through media reports that he had lost a majority in government.
Reports say Bennett’s scheduled schedule for Wednesday was canceled as he huddled with advisers.
Silman’s statement means that the government will be able to pass the law only with the support of opposition lawmakers. The only party that might have voted for some kind of legislation would be the United List of Arab Factions, but its support would only serve to further alienate the right-wing coalition parties.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hastened to congratulate Silman on what he called a “courageous step”.
“I was very excited to hear the statement of MP Idit Silman, and I congratulate her on behalf of the masses of the Israeli people who longed for this moment,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.
“I urge all those elected to the national camp to join Idit and return home, you will be received with full respect and open arms,” Netanyahu said.
Likud ran a scathing, months-long online campaign against Yamina joining the government and overthrowing Netanyahu, and Silman was a key target.
The lawmaker was often harassed and said she was physically attacked at a gas station – while Netanyahu suggested that Silman could come up with a history of the attack to deceive coalition opponents.
Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana responded to the announcement Wednesday in a radio interview, saying he hoped Silman would change his mind.
“I learned about it now, hopefully it’s reversible. This government is doing good deeds for the people, it was created out of political need, but I think it is very worthwhile for it to continue to function, ”the Yamina MP said.
Far-right MP Bezalel Smotrych, leader of the opposition Religious Zionism party, formerly a political partner of Bennett and a vocal opponent of the government, said Silman had taken a “courageous step”.
“The national camp will receive Idit with open arms and in a place of honor reserved for those who saved the people of Israel,” Smotrych said in a statement.
“I urge coalition members who have been elected by right to come home. Together, a Jewish, Zionist and national government will be built, which will bring a lot of good to the State of Israel, ”he said.
Silman’s move came at a time when the coalition was already struggling with the day-to-day affairs of the Knesset because it had only a razor-thin majority.
Another Yamina MP, Amihai Shikli, is already an outspoken critic of the government, which tends to vote alongside the opposition.
Yamina can now declare Silman and Shikli dissenting lawmakers and expel them from the party. This would mean that they would be barred from running in the next election from any party that is currently part of the Knesset.
An alternative would be for Silman and Shickley to form a new faction, but they would not be able to do it alone, which would require two more coalition members.
Interior Minister Aelet Shaked has had a cunning relationship with many of her coalition partners and is seen as a potential defector.
Other possibilities: MP Nir Orbach, who chairs the committee of the House of Representatives of the Knesset and often came into conflict with partners in the left-wing coalition, or Abir Kara, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Recently, Silman has spoken very loudly on issues of religion and the state in Israel.
Earlier this week, she clashed with Health Minister Nietzsche Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, who attacked him for ordering hospitals to allow patients and visitors to bring hammers, or non-kosher Easter food, into their premises. the upcoming holiday of Pesach – although the minister only instructed the institutions to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court on this issue.
Silman demanded that Horowitz publish instructions on the matter, warning that his actions were “crossing the red line” and that he should be fired.
Last week, she strongly opposed the so-called Wailing Wall compromise, an agreement that would give extra freedom to non-Orthodox Judaism in the holy place of Jerusalem.
“There is a status quo with the Western Wall, which I think will not change. All the attention around this is just demagoguery. It is a house of prayer. There is a minority – a reform minority that makes a lot of noise, as if it were the majority. I have to tell the truth: this is not the case, ”Silman said in an interview with Kan TV. “This government and, of course, we – or at least I – must preserve the Orthodox character of the Western Wall.”
Since the government was formed, there have been many reports of opposition attempts to deceive coalition lawmakers and overthrow the government.
Silman’s announcement comes amid rising tensions within a coalition that last year united left-wing parties on the right for a settlement, along with Islamist Raam, to overthrow Netanyahu and his Likud faction after a series of failed elections that paralyzed the Knesset. two years.