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Bennett gov’t loses parliamentary majority

The ruling coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lost his razor-thin majority in the Knesset following the resignation of a lawmaker from his nationalist Yamina (“Rightward”) party.

By Erin Viner

Knesset Member (MK) and Coalition Whip Idit Silman withdrew from the government on ‘ideological grounds’ yesterday, proclaiming she was acting to preserve “the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.

The move leaves the Premier and his political partner Foreign Minister and Alternate Premier Yair Lapid, in control of just 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats; endangering their precarious grip on power established last June with the cobbling together of a diverse alliance of liberal and Arab deputies.

Bennett had no immediate comment on the Silman’s resignation.

Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahane, who also belongs to Yamina, said Silman’s announcement had come as a surprise.

“I hope it’s reversible,” Kahane told Army Radio. “This government is doing good things for the nation.”

Silman, an Orthodox Jew, recently clashed with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (leader of the left-wing Meretz party)  over whether Israeli hospitals should enforce strict kosher regulations preventing any foods containing yeast from the premises during upcoming observance of the Jewish Passover holiday. Secular Jews and Arab-Israelis generally oppose such curbs – which were not enforced.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whose record 12 years in power was disrupted with Israel’s unprecedented third consecutive election last year, immediately hailed Silman for her “brave decision” and welcomed her “back home to the nationalist camp.” He and his political allies also released statements urging additional coalition members to follow suit by abandoning their own posts to bring down the Bennett government.

In her statement, Silman voiced hope for the creation of a right-wing government “even during this current Knesset;” urging the dissolution of the government ahead of the next election slated for 2025.

The government is in no immediate danger of collapse because the assembly is currently in spring recess, thus precluding any imminent vote of no-confidence. Such a vote to undermine the government requires a simple majority vote of 61 lawmakers, which would force a new election.

According to former MK Dov Lipman, founder of the Yad L’Olim non-profit organization in Israel that advocates on behalf of new immigrants and world Jewry, there are now three possible routes forward:

Prime Minister Bennett can attempt to govern without a majority – which is essentially impossible; new elections will be called; or the Blue and White political faction could join Opposition parties to form a new right wing-center government with current Defense Minister Benny Gantz as Premier without the need for a new election, said Rabbi Lipman.