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Israel gov't loses majority as MK withdraws from coalition

Member of the Knesset Idit Silman from the Yamina Party (L) and Israeli Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz (R) [@politicsIsrael_/Twitter]
Member of the Knesset Idit Silman from the Yamina Party (L) and Israeli Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz (R) [@politicsIsrael_/Twitter]

The head of the Israeli government coalition, Member of the Knesset Idit Silman from the Yamina Party, announced today her withdrawal from the government headed by Naftali Bennett, which means that the coalition does not have a majority in the Knesset, according to Israeli media.

Silman decided to withdraw from the coalition, due to what she described as "ideological" differences with partners in the government from the Israeli left-wing parties. She will formally hand in her resignation later today, but she is not expected to resign from the Knesset.

It is likely that what speeded up her decision to resign from the coalition was the Israeli Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz, leaning towards allowing "chametz" foods (not permissible according to Jewish law) into hospitals in the country during Passover.

READ: Israeli government in crisis

Silman is the second Knesset member from the Yamina Party to withdraw from the coalition, after MK Amichai Chikli, bringing the number of Knesset members in the coalition down to 60, this means that the coalition will not be able to legislate laws, especially basic laws, and may not succeed in passing the state budget.

Israeli media quoted Silman as saying she tried to achieve unity and work for the current coalition, but "I will not abet the harming of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel."

Silman was also quoted as saying that the Jewish identity of Israel is the core of their existence and therefore undermining it without regard for the people she represents and the values she believes in is a red line.

She added that the people do not know everything because she tried to work quietly. She noted that she will freeze her membership in the coalition and "will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and form a right-wing government."

"I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Another government can be formed in this Knesset," said Silman.

Silman had announced, in the wake of Horowitz's decision regarding the chametz foods, that she would not be able to stay in the coalition if the Minister of Health encouraged and allowed the introduction of chametz to hospitals during the Jewish Passover week.

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Bennett was not aware of Silman's decision to resign from her position, and learned of this through the media, which quoted an informed source in the coalition as saying that despite the absence of a majority for the coalition, the government's mandate may continue until March 2023.

READ: Minister quits Israel gov't, deals a blow to coalition

Bennett tried to contact Silman and communicate with her, but he was unable to do so. He had decided to cancel his agenda and his pre-scheduled engagements for the day to discuss the repercussions of Silman's decision on the future of the government coalition. He is expected to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and alternate prime minister, Yair Lapid.

Head of the opposition Likud Party, Benjamin Netanyahu, welcomed Silman's announcement, saying he welcomed her back home to the nationalist camp and  thanked her "in the name of many people in Israel that waited for this moment," adding, "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."

A senior source in the coalition said that Silman had initially agreed with Netanyahu's partners to secure a place for her on Likud's list of candidates in the upcoming Knesset elections, according to Haaretz newspaper. Under this agreement, if Likud forms a government, Silman will be appointed Minister of Health. She currently chairs the Knesset Health Committee.

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