Israel’s coalition loses its majority with whip’s resignation

Ten months after eight parties established a broad government, its wafer-thin parliamentary majority was snatched by the sudden resignation early Wednesday, April 6 of right-wing Yemina coalition whip Idit Silman. The government was left with 60 Knesset seats out of 120 and a shakier that ever prospect of survival. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu congratulated Silman’s step and “welcomed her back to Likud with open arms,” echoed by opposition right-wing and religious party heads. He promised her 10th spot on the Likud Knesset list and a ministerial portfolio (health) in his next government.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, caught unawares, cancelled all his Thursday appointments for consultations.. Silman cited the “hametz” issue as the reason for her decision. She demanded the sacking of left-wing Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz for allowing government hospitals to let patients consume “hametz (leavened bread proscribed by Jewish law) as well as matzot (unleavened bread)  in the coming eight-day Pesach (Passover festival), in accordance with a High Court ruling. However, long life was hardly the lot of an outsize government coalition ranging from far right to far left and including an Arab party that took office last June primarily to terminate Netanyahu’s 12-year reign. Its survival now depends uncertainly on harnessing votes from the opposition United Arab party. Silman retains her Knesset seat and announced the government could no longer count on her vote. Her step is likely to be copied by other likeminded parliamentary naysayers. The Likud-led grouping led by Netanyahu has come within touching distance of regaining power with the help of the slight majority he may now command after the Passover recess.

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