On a false step, almost by distraction, the Israeli government of Naftali Bennett lost its parliamentary majority, Wednesday April 6 in the morning, and is gambling on its survival. The irony is glaring: it is the “whip” of the coalition that defected, Idit Silman, responsible for enforcing voting discipline within it in the Knesset. She deprives this team of eight parties of her majority of one vote (61 deputies out of 120), on which she has been jostling with surprising confidence since June 2021.
A young MP (41 years and two short terms), from the small far-right religious Yamina party of Mr. Bennett, which has six members, Ms.me Silman makes his defection a matter of religious conviction and honor. She broke with her training and the Prime Minister, considering herself incapable “to participate in the damage to the State of Israel and to the Jewish character of the Israeli people” that he would endorse. The case might seem secondary, but it reminds us that this coalition cannot afford to underestimate the slightest of its dissensions. It follows a Supreme Court ruling, which requires hospitals not to prevent patients from introducing foods made with leavened or fermented flours (chametz) during Passover, which begins on April 15.
Sometimes violent pressure
From Monday, Mr.me Silman had issued an ultimatum. She believed that the Minister of Health and leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz, should resign if he did not give up enforcing this court decision. Did Mr. Bennett take his threats seriously enough? Since June, his troops have faced pressure, sometimes violent, within their synagogue, their family circle, their neighborhood and more broadly from their former political “family”, the nationalist and religious right led by the former -Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
Wednesday, M.me Silman announced that she would continue her efforts to persuade her colleagues to “go home and form a right-wing government”. Shortly after, Mr. Netanyahu congratulated him on his strength of conviction, calling on his comrades to imitate him. “You will be received with all due respect and with open arms”, he asserted. In the morning, Mr. Bennett canceled all his appointments and was trying to reach this lost sheep.
In the short term, the brilliance of Mme Silman does not promise to mechanically restart the election cycle in which Israel sank for two years, between 2019 and 2021, over four elections. With 60 MPs, only one opposition vote is missing to dissolve Parliament. But not all of its members necessarily have an interest in confronting voters. In any event, the Knesset remains suspended for five weeks. MPs are in their ridings getting ready to celebrate the holidays. The coalition has a budget until March 2023, it can still vote on its texts with the support of the United List of three Arab parties (six deputies).
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