Israel's coalition government dealt near fatal blow with whip's defection

With coalition and opposition tied in Knesset, legislation virtually impossible without cooperation across political divide; Silman claims motivated by concerns for Jewish identity of Israel but some speculate she has already secured a place in Netanyahu's Likud

Moran Azulay|
The coalition of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, on Wednesday lost its narrow majority with the announced resignation of its whip - Idit Silman who will join the opposition.
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ישיבת ממשלה
ישיבת ממשלה
Resigning coalition whip Idit Silman
(Photo: Yoav Davidovitch )
The coalition was now tied with the opposition with 60 Knesset seats each, making legislation impossible without cooperation across the political divide.
Silman announced she was leaving because she was concerned Israel was losing its Jewish character, but some speculate, she was secured a position in the Likud party.
According to sources, Silman was promised the position of Health Minister in a Likud led government and a guaranteed place in its Knesset list for the next elections.
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Silman and welcomed her 'back home' to the right.
"I was excited to hear the announcement of Member of Knesset Idit Silman and congradulate her on behalf of millions of Israelis who have been longing for this moment," Netanyahu said in a video post.
"You have proved that you are guided by concern for Israel's Jewish identity… you will be welcomed back with open arms," he said referring to the right wing, nationalist political side.
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נתניהו לסילמן: "מקבל אותך בברכה חזרה הביתה"
נתניהו לסילמן: "מקבל אותך בברכה חזרה הביתה"
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates resigning coalition whip Idit Silman on a video post on Wednesday
The leader of the Religious Zionism party Bezalel Smotrich also said he will welcome Silman back into the fold and called her announcement a new dawn for Israel.
Silman came out forcefully against Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz from the left-wing Meretz party earlier this week, after he instructed hospitals to refrain from enforcing Jewish dietary restrictions during the Passover holiday.
Bennett and Foreign Minister and alternative prime minister Yair Lapid were not aware of her decision and heard of her move from the media.
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מליאת הכנסת
מליאת הכנסת
Resigning coalition whip Idit Silman (left) and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked
(Photo: Yoav Davidovitch)
Silman's dramatic defection increases Netanyahu's chances of return to power but on its own, is not a definitive end to the Bennett coalition.
For Silman to topple the government she must join with two other coalition members to form a new faction. Thus far she is joined only by one – another member of Bennett's own Yamina Party -Amichai Shikli who had refused to back the coalition since it was established.
Bennett can label both rebels as renegades and thereby prevent them from joining any other party in the Knesset in the next elections.
The prime minister had not commented on Silman's resignation in the first hours after her announcement.
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