Bennett Government Faces New Hurdle as Ally Engages in Talks With Netanyahu's Party

Nir Orbach 'is examining all the options in front of him,' one source in Bennett's party says, marking the latest sign of trouble for Israel's ruling coalition

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MK Nir Orbach, speaks in the Knesset, in 2021.
MK Nir Orbach, speaks in the Knesset, in 2021.Credit: Knesset Spokesperson

Right-wing lawmaker and a member of Prime Minister Bennett's party Nir Orbach is in “serious discussions’’ with Likud lawmaker Yariv Levin about defecting to the opposition, sources in Bennett's Yamina said on Thursday.

The sources believe that Orbach has not yet made a decision about leaving the coalition and that if he does defect, he won’t do so without giving his colleagues advance notice. “He is examining all the options in front of him,” one said.

Orbach believes the coalition in its current form has reached the end of the road, they said, but he is ready to wait and see if changes can be made that succeed in steadying it.

Coalition leaders have been trying to persuade Meretz and United Arab List lawmakers Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Mazen Ghanayim to resign from the Knesset in light of their opposition to a government bill extending Israeli law to settlers in the West Bank earlier this week. Sources contend that even if they succeed in removing just one of the two MKs, Orbach may decide against defecting.

However, even if both renegade lawmakers left, the coalition would still lack a Knesset majority, a legacy of Yamina MK Idit Silman’s defection in early April. During the vote on extending the emergency regulations, Silman, who had previously been coalition whip, absented herself. On another bill allowing Matan Kahana to return to his previous post as minister for religious services, Silman voted against.

After the second vote, Kahana said that “Silman has proven by this act that she isn’t part of the Yamina faction. I assume there will be consequences going forward.” However, as of now, the party has no plans to formally declare her to be a defector in the hope of being able to win her support in future Knesset votes.

Orbach met Wednesday night with Yamina leader Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. Since Silman’s defection, the two, together with Deputy Minister Abir Kara, have agreed to cooperate on the assumption that they can accomplish more together than separately. Yamina sources said Thursday that Likud has been seeking to create divisions between the three.

On Wednesday, Shaked briefly saw opposition leader and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at a reception at the British Embassy. The Netanyahus shook hands with Shaked, despite the fact that for years there have been reports that Sara Netanyahu resolutely opposes Shaked’s return to Likud. Yamina sources said that “senior Likud officials” are still opposed to her rejoining the party.

After its Knesset defeat on Monday this week, the cabinet and ministerial legislative committee will hold new deliberations on Monday regarding the emergency regulations in the West Bank. If the government fails to get Knesset support for renewing them, they are due to expire at the end of the month.

Political sources said Wednesday the government would not bring the law to another vote if it wasn’t ensured of a Knesset majority. UAL Chairman Mansour Abbas has suggested to his coalition partners to find a legal alternative to get around the absence of the law after it expires, saying that he didn’t believe a majority will emerge.

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