Outgoing Whip Says Bennett Offered Her Health Portfolio to Stay in Israel's Coalition

In her first interview since she announced her resignation from the coalition, MK Idit Silman said that she has no official agreements with Likud and called for a rotational government between Bennett and Netanyahu

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MK Idit Silman in the Knesset Health Committee this week.
MK Idit Silman in the Knesset Health Committee this week.Credit: Noam Moskowitz/Knesset

Following her surprising exit from the coalition, which cost the government its majority, MK Idit Silman of Yamina denied on Thursday that she had an official agreement with Likud, adding that she was offered the position of health minister in exchange for rejoining the coalition.

On Thursday, a day after resigning from her post as coalition whip, Silman gave an interview to the Zman Yisrael news site, saying: “They’re offering me the health minister post now, but I won’t take it… Likud is willing to give me everything, but we haven’t come to an agreement.”

The lawmaker also denied that she had coordinated her move with the opposition. “I did it all alone,” she said in the interview. “I woke up at two in the morning and spoke only with a friend of mine who has nothing to do with politics. I told myself, now is the time. I spoke with [opposition whip and Likud MK] Yariv Levin, and that was it. I surprised everyone, including Netanyahu. They didn’t know that I would put out that announcement. No one knew. They were shocked.” Silman added that she still considers herself a member of Yamina and that she isn’t ready to call herself a defector. “I didn’t defect from anywhere,” she said.

Silman said that the issue of allowing chametz – leavened bread products – into hospitals during the holiday of Passover “was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.” According to Silman, “The problem isn’t chametz, you understand. It’s everything else that’s important to us… it’s the entire erosion of Jewish identity. I saw it time and time again.”

On Sunday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz instructed hospitals to adhere to a high court ruling which forbids staff from checking whether visitors have chametz in their bags. Silman criticized Horowitz's action, saying it disqualified him from serving as health minister. Horowitz intended to make amends with Silman by offering to publicly credit her with a list of achievements related to her post as chair of the Knesset Health Committee, but Silman cancelled their scheduled meeting shortly before announcing her resignation.

Also in the interview, Silman criticized Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is the chairman of her party. “Bennett speaks about the ‘West Bank.’ Wow. If I was in favor of the ‘West Bank’ I’d join Yesh Atid, get some armor, we’d go to elections, and I’d feel comfortable there,” she said, referring to a speech Bennett gave in English recently in which he garnered criticism from the right for not referring to the occupied territories as 'Judea and Samaria.'

In response to claims that her recent step would drag the country to a fifth election cycle, Silman deflected the criticism saying, “If we head to elections, it’s not because of me. We can, right now, establish a right-wing government. What’s the problem? Who wants elections? [Justice Minister and New Hope chairman] Gideon Sa’ar wouldn’t pass the electoral threshold.” Silman added that a government can be established where “Bennett will be prime minister or defense minister and have a rotation with Netanyahu.”

Silman was also asked about her meeting with Abir Kara and Amichai Chikli and the possibility of the three establishing a new party together: “That was meaningless. But Abir Kara came to me. He wanted to establish a separate party. He has agreements that he’s put together from all sorts of places. I’m not part of it.” She clarified, “I won’t do anything as of now.”

Silman and MK Abir Kara in the Knesset in January.

Kara confirmed Friday that he proposed starting a new party to Silman and Chikli in an interview with Kan 11. Kara said that his aim was “to be three very fateful and significant votes and to get everything we want within the existing coalition.” In another interview with Channel 13, Kara said, “Is it important who the prime minister is? His identity? I don’t think so.” He added, “If we succeed in creating a group, and this group can influence the economic policy and the right-wing policy of the government, we’ll be there.”

Later on Thursday, Bennett's Yamina party declared Chikli, who has opposed the government since its establishment, as dissenter, preventing him from in the next election for another party which currently holds seats in the Knesset.

MK Amichai Chikli in the Knesset last year.Credit: Noam Moskowitz/Knesset Press Office

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