Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett must deal with a major test for his ruling coalition after a lawmaker from his nationalist party quit, leaving his government without a majority in parliament less than a year after the coalition was formed.
Idit Silman’s departure greatly increases the likelihood of a new parliamentary election less than a year after the government took office. Prime Minister Bennett’s government enjoyed a one-seat majority but now will struggle to function.
Silman, who had served as a coalition whip for Bennett’s Yamina party, announced Wednesday she would not continue supporting the unity government, and called for the formation of a right-wing government without elections.
Silman has had ideological clashes with members of the coalition’s left-wing parties in her pursuit to preserve the Jewish identity in the nation. In a letter to Prime Minister Bennett, she admonished him to “try to form a nationalist, Jewish, Zionist government.”
Previously, she had opposed allowing people to bring leavened bread into public hospitals, products prohibited according to religious traditions during the Passover holiday. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that hospitals could not bar people from doing so in 2021 since they serve people of different religions.
“Key values in my worldview are inconsistent with current reality,” Silman wrote in the letter to Bennett.
Silman’s departure has impeded Bennett’s attempt to form a rare alliance of liberal and Arab deputies who decided to join his government last June. This alliance now holds 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
Bennett had recently formed a coalition of eight political parties comprising staunch nationalists, liberals, and Islamists, who had found common ground in their opposition to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There have been apparent differences, however, within this union, now laid bare by Silman’s exit.
“To friends still sitting in this coalition, I say: come home,” Netanyahu said. “Join Idit Silman, join us, and together we will return Israel to the track of success, achievement, security, and peace.”
The former leader has been attempting to win over members of Bennett’s party and dissolve the coalition.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.