Israeli parliament's coalition chair resigns, opening door to new elections, Bibi Netanyahu comeback

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Idit Silman, a member of Israel’s Knesset and chairman of the current governing coalition, resigned her leadership position in the coalition Wednesday, throwing the Jewish state’s parliament into chaos and emboldening former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s Knesset follows a parliamentary system, so the government’s executive branch emerges from the majority party – or from a coalition of parties that make up a majority. The current ruling coalition only enjoyed a 1-seat majority in the Knesset, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s conservative Yamina Party teaming up with the liberal Yesh Atid Party, led by Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid. This coalition ousted the previous coalition, led by Netanyahu’s Likud Party, which still controls a plurality of seats in the Knesset.

Silman’s resignation threatens to deprive the coalition of its majority, leading to a snap election and opening the door for Netanyahu’s return.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, visit an Israeli army base in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, visit an Israeli army base in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP)
(Atef Safadi/Pool via AP)

Silman said that she chose to resign because she “cannot take it anymore,” adding that she cannot continue harming the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported. Silman may have been referring to a disagreement over allowing chametz – foods with leavening agents – into hospitals during Passover.

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In her resignation letter to Bennett, Silman said that she had “joined the current coalition out of a genuine desire to produce unity and closeness on the basis of the common good that unites us as a people and as a state.” Yet she added that now, her core values are “inconsistent with the current reality.” 

She said she is “attentive to the voices from outside and to the sincere protest of the electorate whose support let us win and with whose votes we were elected.”

Israel's new prime minister Naftali Bennett raises his hand during a Knesset session in Jerusalem Sunday, June 13, 2021.

Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett raises his hand during a Knesset session in Jerusalem Sunday, June 13, 2021.
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“It’s time to recalibrate our route,” Silman wrote. “To try and establish a national, Jewish, Zionist government. Let us join hands and realize the values for which we have been elected.”

Maariv reporter Anna Ravya Barsky reported that several senior coalition members knew about Silman’s decision for at least a week, but reports suggested that Bennett did not know ahead of time. He has reportedly canceled the schedule he had planned for the day in order to deal with the fallout of her resignation.

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Labor MK Gilad Kariv told the radio station 103FM that he “very much hopes that at the end of the day Idit Silman will take it back, she is the chair of the coalition. This move can only lead to one result and that is a general election. The last thing Israeli society needs at the moment is another election campaign.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, March. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, Pool)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, March. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, Pool)
(AP Photo/Oded Balilty, Pool)

Netanyahu congratulated Silman on her decision, thanking her “in the name of many people in Israel that waited for this moment.”

“I call on everyone who was elected with the votes of the nationalist bloc to join Idit and return home, you will be received with all due respect and open arms,” he concluded.

Likud head Yariv Levin congratulated Silman, praising her for “saving the State of Israel from a dangerous and unprecedented process of deep damage to the Jewish character of the state and the foundations of its existence.”

Likud Party officials have claimed that Silman is not the only coalition member to have been considering resignation, and they expressed hope that others will follow her lead.

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Only one more defection will cause an election.

This political crisis follows close on a two-year crisis from April 2019 to March 2021 in which Israel held four snap elections for the Knesset: in April 2019, Sept. 2019, March 2020, and March 2021.



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