MKs Avigdor Liberman (Likud Beytenu) and Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) were elected temporary chairmen of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Knesset Finance Committee, respectively, as Arab and Meretz MKs protested the choices on Wednesday.

The temporary Knesset House Committee, led by 18th Knesset coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud Beytenu), voted in the two chairmen.

Elkin suggested that there be one committee member for every five MKs, and that small parties not be allowed to join together in so-called “technical blocs” in order to join committees.

Each temporary committee has 17 members, five from Likud Beytenu, three from Yesh Atid, two each from Labor, Bayit Yehudi and Shas. UTJ, The Tzipi Livni Party and Meretz each have one representative per committee. Parties with four or less members may only observe committees.

As such, none of the Arab parties are represented in the temporary Finance and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees.

Traditionally, they do not have members in the latter committee when it is permanent, either.

“If UAL-Ta’al had five seats, would you raise the minimum to six MKs?” MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) asked.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) suggested counting the Arab parties as one united faction for the sake of splitting the committees, but was voted down.

Elkin nominated Gafni for temporary Finance Committee chairman, because he held the role in the previous Knesset, and Liberman to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, instead of former Kadima MK Ronnie Bar-On, who did not run for the 19th Knesset and led the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“How can an MK accused of fraud and breach of trust, who cannot serve as a minister, be the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee?” Tibi asked.

Elkin responded: “There’s a precedent in the appointment of MK Tzahi Hanegbi,” who is now in Likud Beytenu, but was in Kadima when he led the committee.

“Maybe we should make a rule in the Knesset that only an MK accused of fraud and breach of trust can be Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman,” Tibi quipped.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On brought up the same issue when the temporary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee confirmed Liberman’s nomination.

Gal-On demanded that Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon give an opinion as to whether Liberman could be chairman because of his impending corruption trial.

The Meretz leader pointed out that part of the committee’s job is to supervise the Foreign Ministry, and said that Liberman could “terrorize the ministry’s workers, even if it’s legal.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Legal Adviser Miri Frankel-Schorr told Gal-On there is no problem with Liberman becoming chairman.

Upon his confirmation, Liberman said, “the State of Israel faces significant security challenges. You don’t need to be a great strategist to know what is happening in our region, and we cannot allow political or coalition matters to prevent this committee from working.”

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