Israeli government on the brink of collapse as Netanyahu sees political comeback

Just when Israel thought it was enjoying some political stability, the abrupt departure of a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government sent shockwaves through Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Idit Silman, a right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset parliament, announced that she has parted ways with Bennett’s political party, Yamina, and deprived the government of its majority.

The coalition whip is said to have resigned after reports of secret midnight meetings between former prime minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is desperate for a political comeback.

The crisis comes after a series of deadly attacks in Israel that killed 11 Israelis, putting the government under high pressure. As the country remains on the highest level of preparedness for Ramadan, Passover and Easter, further violence could break out between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a video statement, Netanyahu congratulated Silman: “I call on everyone chosen by the national camp to join Idit and come home. You will be welcomed with all respect and with open arms.” He also called on other members of the government to stop and join the coalition. Netanyahu held an opposition rally in Jerusalem hours later, calling Bennett’s government “weak” and predicting its demise.

At his Yamina Party faction meeting, Bennett accused Netanyahu, whom Israelis call Bibi, of verbally bullying Silman, but warned that if they don’t stabilize the coalition, “the alternative is more elections and maybe more elections after them, and back to the days of dangerous instability for the State of Israel.”

In her letter of resignation to Bennett, Silman cited her reasons for leaving because her core values ​​are “inconsistent with the current reality (of the coalition)”.

“I am ending my membership of the coalition,” she wrote, “and I will continue to try to persuade my colleagues to return home and form a right-wing government. I know I am not alone in feeling this way.”

Idit Silman resigned for ideological reasons

(Shutterstock)

She referred to an altercation with left-wing Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz over a letter he sent to hospitals urging them to comply with a Supreme Court decision banning hospitals from banning people from entering non-kosher food for Passover. to bring. known as hametz, during the holidays, starting next week.

But it is widely believed that the real impetus for Silman to defeat the coalition was Netanyahu’s promises to become Israel’s next health minister — if and when the former Israeli leader would win and form a new government.

“The problems are not about Silman; we convinced her that this was the right decision for Israel and for the people. We hope to find one or two more members of Yamina who will leave and come to Likud, this is what we are currently trying to do,” Miki Zohar, a member of Knesset for Likud and a close ally of Netanyahu, said.the independent

“If we want a new government, we have to convince other members to join; We are working on it. We will wait. Even if we don’t form a new government, we have no problem going to the elections. Citizens can decide for themselves.”

Netanyahu has vowed to topple Bennett’s government since the day she sent him to the opposition. He even arranged Silman’s dismissal while on trial for corruption. Bennett’s government had vowed to pass legislation that would prevent Netanyahu from leading Israel while facing criminal charges. But now it’s unclear whether Bennett will have the time or the votes to put up a barrier to Netanyahu’s comeback.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gestures during a visit to an army base in the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 5, 2022

(Reuters)

The fragile coalition government, made up of eight different parties — center, left, right, Arab and Jewish — had only agreed to form the coalition after four inconclusive elections last June. Most held extremely different political ideologies but shared a desire to oust Netanyahu after more than 12 years in power. To their credit, they passed the first state budget in three years.

The coalition only had a one-seat majority, but Silman’s defection means the government no longer has a majority. Neither does the opposition. The two parties are stuck with 60 lawmakers each, though Netanyahu’s bloc is just 54 with the largest Arab party, The Joint List, holding six seats. They have already rejected the idea of ​​joining Netanyahu’s bloc. Netanyahu’s chances of courting six more of Bennett’s government seem slim.

Now snap elections are being touted as the most likely outcome – meaning Yair Lapid would become prime minister in the meantime under the coalition agreement.

It might not be as fast when there are no more Bennett defectors. But Bennett will struggle to push through his legislative agenda without a majority. It seems unlikely he will last for 16 months, as it only takes one wayward lawmaker to help Netanyahu win a no-confidence vote and usher in new elections.

But all that will take at least another month, as Israel’s parliament is on hiatus for the holidays of Ramadan, Passover and Easter.

That gives Bennett some time to study the political chessboard and figure out his next move.

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