Israeli government loses wafer-thin majority, returning country to ‘political crisis mode’

Controversial former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes Idit Silman’s decision

Rory Sullivan
Wednesday 06 April 2022 12:19
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<p>Idit Silman resigned for ideological reasons </p>

Idit Silman resigned for ideological reasons

Israel’s government has been thrown into disarray after its chair resigned, leaving it without a majority and raising the possibility of a fifth national election in little more than three years.

Idit Silman, who belonged to prime minister Naftali Bennett’s religious-nationalist Yamina party, quit on ideological grounds on Wednesday. The move means the eight-party coalition government now only has 60 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, hindering its ability to pass legislation.

The 41-year-old’s resignation followed her call for the health minister Nitzan Horowitz, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, to be sacked over his decision to allow bread to be brought into hospitals over Passover. Consuming the food product during the religious festival is prohibited by Jewish law.

Ms Silman accused Mr Horowitz of “crossing a red line”, saying he could not “continue to be a minister”.

Speaking after her shock resignation, Ms Silman, who is an Orthodox Jew, said she wanted to preserve the “Jewish identity of the State of Israel”, adding that “the time has come to form a national, Jewish and Zionist government”.

The politician also said she wants an exclusively right-wing government to be formed “even during this current Knesset”, which is due to end with the scheduled 2025 election.

The comment puts paid to religious affairs minister Matan Kahana’s hope on Tuesday that her decision was “reversible”.

Her departure is a boon for the controversial Likud leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed her “back home to the national camp”. He was ousted last June by Mr Bennett’s coalition, after three elections in quick succession failed to remove him from the top job.

Before resigning from the government, Ms Silman was promised the position of health minister if Likud wins the next election, a source told Haaretz.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said Ms Silman’s resignation had not brought down the government but noted the country was now “back to political crisis mode”.

Some have called for the Joint List, an alliance of Arab-majority parties, to help prop up the government. But its chair Ayman Odeh ruled out this possibility, explaining it would not support right-wing figures like Mr Bennett.

Additional reporting by agencies

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