Parties still dispute chairmanship of Knesset c'tee

After Tzahi Hanegbi’s ouster, Foreign Affairs and Defense panel can’t convene without new head; Labor wants Einat Wilf to take chairmanship.

November 12, 2010 03:08
3 minute read.
Einat Wilf and Shaul Mofaz

MKs Wilf and Mofaz. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Despite warnings from House Committee Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) that his committee would appoint a successor to former Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi in the coming week, the committee has not yet scheduled any meetings to discuss the ousted MK’s successor. Levin has called upon the heads of all Knesset factions to submit their nominees for the position by Monday, but the main conflict over the committee’s leadership, a battle for power between Kadima and Likud, is far from over.

“The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee naturally deals with topics of the highest importance, in terms of the Knesset’s oversight of the security services and of Israel’s foreign relations,” wrote Levin in a letter to faction chairs, “A situation in which the committee cannot operate or convene for a long period as a result of the lack of a chairperson, is unacceptable, and it is our joint responsibility to make a decision regarding the appointment of a chairperson as soon as possible.”

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Levin reiterated his commitment to hold a hearing on the committee’s leadership in the coming week, but as of Thursday evening, the topic had not been added to the House Committee’s order of business for next week. He stressed that faction leaders had until Monday to submit their nominee for the position or – if the faction could not decide – a short list of nominees to chair the committee.

Kadima, however, was dragging its feet in proposing a replacement to Hanegbi, who was suspended earlier this week from the Knesset after being found guilty of having acted with criminal intent when he lied under oath while being investigated for making illicit political appointments. When the current Knesset was formed, Kadima gave up the traditionally opposition-held chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee in exchange for allowing Hanegbi to continue to chair the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he had led since 2005.

Kadima has maintained since Hanegbi’s suspension that the faction should be returned the chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee, and that the leadership of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee should be returned to the coalition.

“Kadima sticks to its right to receive the Economic Affairs Committee as was agreed at the beginning of the term with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,” a Kadima official said. “Kadima intends to continue to fight for this right and expects the prime minister and the coalition to stop denying reality and trying to break traditional agreements in the Knesset because of narrow political and economic considerations.”

In the early days of the coalition, Labor had been offered the committee’s leadership, but neither of the two Labor candidates – then-MK Ophir Paz-Pines or MK Eitan Cabel – agreed to take the position.

Now, a year-and-a-half later, Labor has already said that freshman MK Einat Wilf (Labor), a member of the committee, is the faction’s nominee to chair the committee should the chairmanship be returned to the coalition partners.

Coalition Chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) has ruled out that possibility, saying that if Kadima refuses to select a chairperson from within the opposition party’s ranks, the coalition will pick a Kadima MK to do so. In that case, the most likely candidate would be MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s fiercest in-party rival, and a former defense minister and IDF chief-of-general-staff.

Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller and Avi Dichter have also been suggested as alternative candidates.

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