Bad or worse: On the faultlines within the Israel’s ruling coalition

The resignation of lawmaker Idit Silman from Israel’s diverse ruling coalition has taken the Jewish country’s politics back to crisis and instability. With Ms. Silman defecting to the opposition Likud, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government, which had the razor-thin majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member Knesset, lacks the numbers. Elected to the Knesset from Mr. Bennett’s right-religious Yamina party, Ms. Silman had earlier clashed with the Health Minister over allowing leavened grain products (hametz) in hospitals during the Passover holidays. In her resignation letter, she said she could not support “harming the Jewish identity of the state of Israel”. But the real political crisis in Israel is deeper than the hametz controversy. Ever since the coalition government was formed in June last year, Likud has been in constant campaign mode, attacking Yamina for “stealing right-wing votes” and using them to form “a dangerous left-wing government”. The Knesset is now in recess until mid-May. When it convenes, the Opposition will need one more lawmaker to defect if it wants to bring down the government through a no-trust motion. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to do everything he can, as the leader of Likud, to get more right-wing MKs to break with the coalition. And the government is under pressure to keep the coalition floating.

The crisis has also exposed the coalition’s faultlines and Mr. Bennett’s diminishing stature. The alliance was formed after four elections in two years failed to produce a stable government under Mr. Netanyahu, who is also facing corruption charges. What brought a diverse set of parties, from the centre-right Yesh Atid and Blue and White to the right-religious Yamina and Arab Raam, was their intention to see Mr. Netanyahu depart from the premiership. Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, the largest bloc in the coalition, offered the Prime Minister’s post to Mr. Bennett to ensure Yamina’s support. That is how Mr. Bennett, whose party got seven MKs in the 2021 legislative election (now at five), ended up being the Prime Minister. But Ms. Silman’s resignation has practically paralysed the government. Without a majority, it would need opposition lawmakers’ support — which is unlikely — to pass legislation. And if the coalition crumbles, Likud, as things stand, does not have a majority to form the next government under Mr. Netanyahu unless it ties up with the Arab Joint List. Given the mutual animosity between Likud and the Arab parties, this is unlikely to happen. So, there are two plausible scenarios. One, Mr. Bennett’s paralysed government will linger on at least until March 2023 when it will have to pass a budget. Two, the country will go to its fifth election in three years if the government falls. Both look bad for the people of Israel.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 12:11:54 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/bad-or-worse-the-hindu-editorial-on-the-faultlines-within-the-israels-ruling-coalition/article65299673.ece