Israel’s coalition crumbles as MK walks out over chametz row

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Israel’s coalition crumbles as MK walks out over chametz row

Yamina MK Idit Silman said she was resigning because it was time for a ‘national, Jewish and Zionist government’

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Israel’s governing coalition lost its tiny majority in the Knesset on Wednesday when a conservative MK resigned following secret talks with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Backbencer Idit Silman, who was a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, said she was stepping down because she believed it was time to form a “national, Jewish and Zionist government”.

She added that other members of the coalition were unwilling to compromise, an apparent reference to a row involving food in Israeli hospitals during the Passover.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the left-wing Meretz party, recently lifted a ban on leavened food, known as chametz, that is banned during the festival.

It followed a High Court ruling that hospitals did not have the authority to ban visitors from bringing in chametz foods.

Silman was among those criticising Horowitz’s move.

Her defection means the left-right coalition now holds 60 seats in the Knesset, precisely half the total, preventing it from approving a budget or passing laws without the opposition’s support.

Israeli media reported she agreed to join Netanyahu after he promised she would be a candidate for his Likud party at the next election and would take the post of health minister if he forms a government.

The opposition leader called on other MKs to follow Silman.

“You will be received with all due respect and with open arms,” he said, according to Haaretz.

He added that Silman had been guided by “a concern for the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the Land of Israel”.

Tuesday’s defection does not immediately topple Israel’s governing coalition because the opposition includes a group of Arab MKs who are not likely to vote with Netanyahu’s bloc.

But it does make an early election more likely as 61 votes are needed to dissolve the Knesset.

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