Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked the High Court of Justice on for an extension of his deadline to appoint a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tuesday, because he was busy with diplomatic negotiations.
Last month, Netanyahu committed to choosing a leader by the end of March for the Knesset’s most prestigious panel, a position left empty since Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman left it in November.
Shosh Shmueli, who is in charge of High Court petitions in the State Attorney’s Office, submitted a message to the court in Netanyahu’s name.
“In recent days, there were serious policy developments and processes are ongoing. As a result, at the current point in time, [Netanyahu] is not able to act on his intention” to appoint a head for the committee, Shmueli wrote.
Shmueli did not specify when the prime minister will choose a chairman.
Earlier this week, a senior Prime Minister’s Office source said that since the Knesset is in recess until the middle of May and the court has a discussion of the matter scheduled for April 10, appointing a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman is not a priority for Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s response followed a petition submitted in February by opposition leader Isaac Herzog and other MKs, as well as the Movement for Quality Government, stating that the prime minister and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein are “unable to reach an agreement... due to political coalition issues.... They are blatantly ignoring the disproportionate harm to the Knesset’s sovereignty and its job to supervise the diplomatic and security policies of the defense establishment.”
The State Attorney’s Office’s first response in Netanyahu’s name, given last month, pointed out that this is a political matter and said it should be worked out “in appropriate political frameworks and not in the honorable court.” As such, the response included a request to remove the prime minister from the petition.
The delay in appointing a committee chairman is rooted in a disagreement between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over who should hold the position. The two eventually agreed to a rotation between Knesset House Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi and Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah, but could not decide who should go first.
However, in recent weeks, political sources cited coalition chairman Yariv Levin and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, both of the Likud, as possible candidates.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein appointed himself temporary chairman of the committee and chose MKs to lead its meetings.