Wilf: Split foreign affairs and defense c’tees

Independence MK says only one of 13 subcommittees is dedicated to diplomatic affairs.

December 21, 2011 23:31
2 minute read.
(Courtesy Knesset)

Einat Wilf 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee ignores diplomatic issues, Independence faction Chairwoman Einat Wilf charged on Wednesday, saying that the committee should be split. Speaking in the Knesset House Committee, which deals with procedure and regulations, Wilf argued that most countries have separate committees for foreign affairs and defense matters.

Though House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) initially expressed skepticism at the proposal, he said he would consider it after Wilf and other experts spoke at the meeting.

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Levin has been working on an overhaul of Knesset regulations for nearly two years, which would be implemented after the next elections. The new regulations would apply to Knesset committees and their jurisdiction.

“Now, when the State of Israel is dealing with challenges on the international stage, there is a need to put foreign affairs questions on equal standing with classic security questions,” Wilf said.

Wilf pointed out that the vast majority of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meetings are about security matters, most of the visitors to the committee are IDF officers and only one of its 13 subcommittees is dedicated to diplomacy.

Moreover, Wilf stated that having a separate committee for Foreign Affairs would allow for proper supervision of the Foreign Ministry.

Wilf said that her initiative has Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s support, but that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were concerned that testifying in two committees would be time consuming.

She suggested that this be solved by occasionally holding joint meetings, as many other committees in the Knesset do.

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) expressed support for Wilf’s proposal, but said it is essential that it only be implemented in the next Knesset. This would avoid politicizing the decision, which would require the selection of a new committee chairman and representatives from different factions.

Plesner explained that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is currently responsible for enhancing relations with other parliaments, a job that is difficult with its current resources. A separate Foreign Affairs Committee could improve the situation, he stated.

At the same time, Plesner expressed concern that there may not be enough MKs to serve on the committee, pointing out that there are often meetings in which the chairman is the only one present.

Ra’anan Gissin, a former senior adviser to Ariel Sharon and a well-known spokesman for Israel, said that in strategic planning, “you can’t just give good answers; you have to ask the right questions.”

He stated that MKs who serve on the committee are expected to develop expertise on many issues, but none succeed in learning everything they are supposed to, due to time constraints.

Gissin, who was invited to the meeting by Wilf, said he supports her proposal because it would enable MKs to gain a deeper understanding of foreign affairs and diplomatic issues.

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