Who Is Idit Silman, the Lawmaker Who May Bring Down Israel's Coalition?

Silman's career spanned teaching and healthcare work, before she ended up in the Knesset. Squeezed between her right-wing base and cooperating with left-wing partners, she became the first to bail on Israel's unity government

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
MK Idit Silman, in the Knesset in Jerusalem in November.
MK Idit Silman, in the Knesset in Jerusalem in November. Credit: Dani Shem Tov / Knesset Spokesperson
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The Knesset lawmaker who shook up Israel's governing coalition on Wednesday had been under pressure from the right-wing opposition for some time.

Yamina's Idit Silman, whose abrupt resignation from the coalition deprived them of their slim majority, has long had ideological clashes with members of the coalition's left-wing parties, even before the recent controversy began.

Silman first entered Knesset in 2019. She had been active in her youth in the National Religious party, a forerunner of Habayit Hayehudi, which she later joined. She had originally been third on that slate, but when Habayit Hayehudi merged with other right-wing parties to form Yamina, she was relegated to the sixth spot.

After Michael Ben Ari, a Kahanist candidate, was disqualified from running on the slate during the 2019 election by the Supreme Court for incitement against Arabs, she was bumped up to the fifth slot, and ultimately entered Knesset. Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government, and Israelis returned to the polls.

In the subsequent election in March 2021, she again became a Knesset lawmaker after the person just above her on the slate resigned the day before the Knesset was sworn in. She was appointed as coalition whip, as well as chairwoman of the Knesset’s Health Committee.

Prior to her political career, Silman worked as a teacher, and then held a number of management positions at Clalit Health Services, the country's largest health maintenance organization. Many of her legislative efforts focused on the medical system, including a bill she co-sponsored regarding the freezing of sperm of Israeli soldiers, in the event that they die in battle and their families wish to use it.

The right-wing legislator has clashed ideologically with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz. Their differences began even before their current spat, regarding Horowitz’s directive for hospitals to allow visitors to bring leavened foods during Passover, in contravention of Jewish law.

According to right-wing religious media, Silman paid a visit in December to the Jerusalem visitors’ center of the anti-abortion organization Efrat, following Horowitz's policy reforms on terminating pregnancies. According to the Kipa news website, Silman and her family are regular contributors to Efrat.

Silman was a target of criticism from right-wing opposition parties in the Knesset, most notably when they cast doubt on her claim that she was attacked last fall at a gas station in Modi’in. Likud lawmaker Yoav Kish labeled her “manipulative” and a liar.

In November, she told Channel 12 news that she had been offered to defect to the Likud party twice, after which Kish tweeted: “[I] hereby commit to oppose with all my might anyone coming with the crazy idea of having Silman join Likud. I would prefer to sit the entire term in the opposition and not admit unprincipled people to Likud.”

For the spouse of an elected official, Silman’s husband Shmulik has spoken to the media relatively freely about his political views. He expressed support, for example, for raising funds for Netanyahu’s legal defense in his ongoing corruption trial, and just Tuesday hinted in an interview with Galei Israel radio at her defection from the Bennett government.

“If Idit returns home,” he said, “she would grab a great position at the Health Ministry. Everything’s good. Nothing has happened, and it’s not the end of the world.”

In another interview with Galei Israel radio on Monday, Shmulik Silman was asked whether his wife had lied to her voters when she decided to join the current government. He replied: “I think they committed to things, and they need to apologize… Is anyone in the country saying that they are not liars?”

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