PM, Livni fail to reach deal on key Knesset positions

November 21, 2010 21:19

Knesset Speaker Rivlin demanded the House Committee convene to appoint temporary chair for Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

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Binyamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni

Netanyahu and Livni 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

With the coalition and opposition deadlocked, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin demanded Sunday evening that the House Committee convene on Monday to appoint a temporary chairperson for the powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Rivlin’s announcement came after talks between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni failed to reach an agreement on the replacement for suspended MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), the committee’s former chairman.

“A chairperson must be immediately appointed to head the committee, which currently has on its agenda urgent subjects concerning the activities of the defense system as well as the defense budget,” complained Rivlin. “These subjects can not be delayed any longer.”

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Rivlin called on House Committee Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) to convene the committee on Monday, in order to appoint a temporary chairperson while Netanyahu and Livni continue to work through their impasse.

Following Hanegbi’s departure from the Knesset two weeks ago, Livni has stood by Kadima’s claim that the opposition party should be given the chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee, a position traditionally held by the opposition, in exchange for the leadership of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Netanyahu has been reluctant to turn over the Economic Affairs Committee, which is tasked with passing a number of the economic reforms that are closest to the prime minister’s heart.

In light of Netanyahu’s concerns, Rivlin tried in the past week to negotiate an agreement by which the Economics Affairs Committee would stay in Likud until the budget is passed, and then would change hands in January. But sources close to the negotiations said that political forces within the coalition, including Coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) opposed the deal, arguing that even after the budget was passed, there would remain a number of key reforms that must still be passed by the committee.

Netanyahu and Livni reportedly discussed the proposal during their Sunday evening meeting, but the two failed to reach any common ground during the session. The two agreed that they would continue to meet in the coming days to discuss the issue further.

In the meantime, the most likely candidate to receive the acting chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima). Last week, Kadima threatened that the faction would not cooperate with any attempt to appoint one of its members to chair the committee, but recently, the party has toned down its rhetoric in closed-door conversations, demonstrating increased flexibility on the subject of the temporary chairmanship.

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