In a surprising move, a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party announced her resignation from his coalition government on Wednesday, leaving him without a legislative majority.

Bennett’s coalition, which includes parties ranging from the Jewish right to Israeli doves to an Arab Muslim party, now has 60 seats, the same as the opposition, thanks to Idit Silman’s announcement.

Although Silman’s resignation does not spell the end of the coalition, it does open the possibility of veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power less than a year after losing the prime ministership to Bennett.

“I experimented with the way of unification. In a statement, Silman, a religious conservative who served as coalition chairperson, stated, “I worked a lot for this coalition.”

“Unfortunately, I am unable to contribute to the erosion of Israel’s Jewish identity.”

Silman slammed Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Monday after he ordered hospitals to allow leavened bread goods into their facilities for the upcoming Passover holiday, despite a recent supreme court ruling overturning years of restriction.
During Passover, Jewish tradition prohibits the public consumption of leavened bread.

“I am leaving the coalition and will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and build a right-wing government,” Silman stated.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks like this.”
Bennett’s coalition may be able to maintain power with 60 seats, but new legislation will be difficult to pass.
However, if another coalition member leaves, the Knesset might issue a vote of no confidence, forcing Israel to undertake its fifth parliamentary election in four years.

If Silman “is the first person to truly plan to bring down the government, she is doing it from a place of conviction,” Dahlia Scheindlin, a political analyst, told AFP.

“She is religious,” Scheindlin observed, “and I believe we all underestimate the importance of theology.”
“We must confess that we tried,” Silman wrote in a formal resignation letter to Bennett. It’s past time to rethink things and try to put together a national, Jewish, Zionist government.”

Bennett, whose Yamina party has seen multiple splits and defections since its formation in 2019, did not respond immediately.

Bennett reportedly called a meeting of his party amid fears of more defections, according to Israeli media. Yamina now has only five of the 120 seats in parliament.

Silman was greeted warmly by the same right-wing MPs who had been persistently attacking her since she joined Bennett’s ruling coalition last year, breaking campaign commitments.

“Idit, you’re proof that what guides you is care for Israel’s Jewish character, concern for Israel’s territory, and I welcome you back to the national camp,” opposition leader Netanyahu said in a video.
“I call on whoever was elected by the national camp’s votes to join Idit and return home; you will be welcomed with all due honor and open arms,” the right-wing former prime minister stated.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, who was in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 to June, had promised to play spoiler against Bennett’s government, effectively ending his tenure.
“There is a weak and limp administration in Israel today,” Netanyahu remarked during a special session of the Knesset, which is presently in recess. It has a finite number of days left.”

On May 8, the Knesset will reassemble to continue legislative activity.
According to Israeli media, Netanyahu enticed Silman by promising her the health portfolio if he was re-elected prime minister.
Netanyahu would need the support of at least 61 lawmakers, which he presently lacks, to build his own government without new elections.

Bennett’s former political colleague, Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, praised Silman for her “courage to undertake the difficult choice,” but warned the government coalition would not survive her departure.
On Twitter, he remarked, “This is the beginning of the end of Bennett’s left-wing, non-Zionist government and the Islamist Movement.”

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