On Wednesday, the Israeli parliamentarian Idit Silman, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, quit the governing coalition, which rested on a razor-thin 61-seat majority (out of 120 total). Her defection—ostensibly over regulations regarding Passover observance—highlights the fragility of the current government, which brought together several disparate parties from across the political spectrum, united only in their desire to unseat Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Zev Chafets explains:
Bennett has done a good job running his coalition of rivals and gave Israelis a sense at what a more centrist government could look like. But he hasn’t been a particularly popular prime minister. Inexperience was one problem. He was not always good at articulating his policies to the public. And, crucially, he suffered from political blindness: he took his eye off Netanyahu.
On Wednesday, Bibi called on additional members of the ruling coalition to defect and form a new government with him at the head. There is a fair chance this will happen. It’s not only right wingers in Bennett’s anti-Bibi coalition who might be tempted. Ambitious and frustrated centrists (Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s name comes up most often) who could give a new Likud government a wider public base may also wish to join.
If no one else defects, a 60-60 split will paralyze the Knesset (unlike in the U.S. Congress, there is no tie-breaking vote). That would almost certainly lead to a new election in the summer, the fifth in the past four years.
Netanyahu will be the candidate of Likud; polls show him by far the most popular party leader. He faces three indictments on criminal charges of fraud and corruption which rumble on. But those indictments are not looking as solid as the prosecution thought, and even if he is convicted, he could appeal, dragging out the process while staying in office.