Israel government in chaos as Bennett loses majority as MP quits

Israel government in chaos as Bennett loses majority as MP quits
Idit Silman, a key member of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's Yamina Party, quit the coalition ruling government in a surprise move
2 min read
Idit Silman quit the coalition government [Getty]

A key member of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's Yamina Party said Wednesday she was quitting his coalition government, in a surprise move that could see the collapse of the government.

Idit Silman's announcement left Bennett's coalition, an alliance of parties ranging from the Jewish far-right and Israeli centrists to a Palestinian Islamist party, with 60 seats - the same as the opposition.

Although Silman's defection does not mean the fall of the coalition, it raises the spectre of a potential return to office by right-wing former PM Benjamin Netanyahu, less than a year after he lost the premiership to Bennett.

"I tried the path of unity. I worked a lot for this coalition," Silman, a religious conservative who served as coalition chairperson, said in a statement.

"Sadly, I cannot take part in harming the Jewish identity of Israel."

On Monday, Silman had lashed out at Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, after he instructed hospitals to allow leavened bread products onto their premises during the upcoming Passover holiday, in line with a recent supreme court ruling reversing years of prohibition.

Jewish tradition bars leavened bread from the public domain during Passover.

"I am ending my membership of the coalition and will try to continue to talk my friends into returning home and forming a right-wing government," Silman said.

"I know I'm not the only one who feels this way."

Bennett met with leaders of the coalition parties following the announcement.

"All of them want to continue with the government," he said.

"The alternative is more elections," he said which he claimed would lead to "dangerous instability".

Right-wing Bennett has been criticised for further entrenching Israel's occupation of the West Bank, with the planned displacement of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as in the Negev.

His coalition government includes an array of religious extremist and far-right elements.