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Israel's Government Thrown into Crisis After Leader Abruptly Resigns

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JERUSALEM, Israel – In a move that throws Israel’s political future into uncertainty, the chairwoman of the country’s governing coalition abruptly resigned Wednesday morning over a religious dispute, robbing the coalition of its majority in parliament and raising the possibility that Israel will be forced to hold another national election.

Chairwoman Idit Silman said she cannot play a role in “harming” Israel’s Jewish identity.

“I will not abet the harming of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. I will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and form a right-wing government,” Silman said in a statement. “I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Another government can be formed in this Knesset.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the right-wing Yamina Party, which Silman is a member of, was reportedly caught off guard by the announcement and learned about his coalition losing its majority through news outlets.

Bennett reportedly canceled all his appointments on Wednesday to deal with the government’s new crisis.

Silman’s decision means that Bennett’s governing coalition only has 60 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, forcing the government to rely on support from the opposition to pass legislation. If another person resigns, the government will collapse and Israelis will face another national election.

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Opposition Leader and Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Silman’s decision.

“I was very moved to hear MK Idit Silman’s statement, and I congratulate her on behalf of the masses of the people of Israel who wish for this moment,” Netanyahu said in a video statement. “I call on all those elected by the national camp to join Idit and return home, you will be received with complete respect and with open arms.”

Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana told Israeli radio he hoped Silman would change her mind.

“I hope it is reversible. This government is doing good things for the people, it was formed because of a political constraint but I think it is very worthwhile for it to continue to function,” the Yamina lawmaker said.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv told Israel’s 103FM that Silman’s decision would ultimately force the country into another election.

“This move can only lead to one result and that is a general election. The last thing Israeli society needs at the moment is another election campaign,” said Kariv.

Israel’s current government was only formed 10 months ago after several inconclusive elections that paralyzed the country for two years. It is made up of a coalition of parties from Israel’s political right, left center, and for the first time, an Arab party.

Silman’s resignation follows intense disagreement within the coalition over the role religion has in government.

Earlier this week, Silman fought with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz for ordering hospitals to allow patients to bring “hametz” – or leavened food – into the facilities during Passover. Horowitz did not make the rule himself but was telling health leaders to abide by a 2020 High Court of Justice ruling that said hospitals cannot ban patients from consuming leavened foods during Passover.

“It is our duty to allow each patient to behave in his own way, without coercion,” said Horowitz.

Israel’s High Court of Justice said that such a ban “infringes on fundamental rights of the first order, on the autonomy of the individual and freedom from religion.”

Silman said Horowitz’s decision to obey the high court’s ruling was “crossing a red line” and demanded he be fired.

“When a minister in the government says that hametz should be allowed [in hospitals], he is disrespecting 70 percent of the public,” Silman said during a debate on the matter.

“People during the Holocaust fasted on Passover rather than eat hametz and a minister in the government of the State of Israel unfortunately intends to introduce hametz… This is contempt for members of the coalition,” she said.

Last week, Silman also came out against a deal that would allow non-orthodox streams of Judaism to have additional freedom at the Western Wall. The deal involves allowing men and women to pray together.

A recent Israel Hayom poll conducted by the Maagar Mochot Institute found that most Israelis believe Netanyahu is better suited for the role of prime minister than Bennett. However, it found that if an election were held today, neither political bloc would win a clear majority, leading to another inconclusive election result.  

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About The Author


Emily Jones is a multi-media journalist for CBN News in Jerusalem. Before she moved to the Middle East in 2019, she spent years regularly traveling to the region to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meet with government officials, and raise awareness about Christian persecution. During her college years, Emily served as president of Regent University's Christians United for Israel chapter and spoke alongside world leaders at numerous conferences and events. She is an active member of the Philos Project, an organization that seeks to promote positive Christian engagement with the Middle