Renegade Right-wing Lawmaker Doubles Down on Threat to Bennett-led Coalition

Israeli lawmaker Amichai Chikli has doubled down on his refusal to join forces with the left, throwing Bennett's proposed unity government into jeopardy

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Amichai Chikli.
Amichai Chikli. Credit: Tomer Ben Avi / Wikimedia
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Right-wing Yamina lawmaker has complicated efforts to form a broad-based national unity government after breaking with party head Naftali Bennett over the issue of joining a coalition including left-wing parties.

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, a former officer in the lite naval unit Shayetet 13, doubled down on his refusal to join forces with the left on Thursday, tweeting that he would “vote against a government with the Joint List and Meretz, as we pledged to voters.” This came less than a day after sending party leader Bennett a letter outlining the reasons for his opposition.

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He also stated that while he loves the entire Jewish people and has actively worked on issues of Jewish-Arab coexistence, his ideology was incompatible with Meretz’s position on the International Criminal Court in the Hague and the Joint List’s support for convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar.

Last year, the Central Elections Committee disqualified Joint List lawmaker Heba Yazbak, who lost her seat in the March election, for sharing a Facebook post in which she called Kuntar a “martyr.” The decision was subsequently overturned by Israel's High Court.

In his letter to Bennett, Chikli noted the promises to right-wing voters that Bennett will be breaking if he collaborates with the left. They include his vow to form a right-wing government and not one with Meretz after this left-wing party backed the prosecution of Israeli army officers by the International Court of Justice.

Bennett’s constituency is also upset that he agreed to serve under Yair Lapid if the Yesh Atid leader is prime minister as part of a rotation agreement.

“Forming a government like this would be a fundamental violation of the Yamina party’s core identity,” Chikli wrote. “It’s clear to everyone that Bennett’s participation will severely harm him with his electorate. He could end his term shattered and with no political horizon. If he joins the coalition, when he’s prime minister he’ll have to rebuild himself from scratch to regain the public’s trust.”

In response to Chikli’s comments, Yamina issued a statement saying that while it respected his position, the party was “committed to doing everything in its power to establish a stable and functioning government.”

Yamina lawmaker meanwhile Idit Silman thanked Netanyahu for "the flood of offers" given via intermediaries, but said that she rejected all of them. "Thank you, but no," she wrote on Facebook. "I am not interested in that, but rather in preventing a fifth election and ending the chaos into which you have led the country."

Chikli's opposition won’t necessarily scuttle Yamina’s potential inclusion in a unity government, but it means that if another Yamina or New Hope lawmaker joins him, such a government will also have to rely on the support of the Joint List.

Several other names, including Ayelet Shaked, Bennett’s close political partner in Yamina, have been mentioned in connection with Netanyahu's bid to lure defectors. If Netanyahu succeeds, it wouldn’t give him a government, but it would make it more difficult for Lapid and Bennett to form one of their own.

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition by Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tasked Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid with forming a government. 

Earlier in the day, Bennett called on all political parties to join a "broad emergency government" in order to avoid a fifth election. "The truth is simple, Netanyahu failed to form a right-wing [government],” Bennett said in a statement to the press. He said that he “left no stone unturned” in order to form a right-wing government, including last-minute efforts on Tuesday night to leave the door open for such a government, but that Netanyahu “slammed it shut."

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