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Edelstein seeking solution to Knesset panel impasse
By LAHAV HARKOV
03/12/2013
Netanyahu remains indecisive about who will lead prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; Yesh Atid: PM has no choice but to appoint Shelah.
 
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is looking for creative solutions – including amending laws – to solve the problem of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee being without a chairman, the Speaker said Monday.

The committee is still missing a chairman three weeks after Avigdor Liberman left the role to return as foreign minister, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to appoint one. The committee, the most prestigious in the Knesset, deals with sensitive and classified materials, and as such, the law forbids the Knesset from appointing a chairman that would serve less than three months.

“This is a political issue, and I’m trying to be fair to the government and prime minister,” Edelstein said in the plenum. “I told [Netanyahu] before his trip [to Italy] that the Knesset cannot continue in the current situation and I am talking to the relevant people to find a solution to the problem, hopefully a permanent one.” Edelstein said he is considering amending the law or finding a legal justification for him to intervene with the support of his deputies.

“We can’t live with this situation for long, because of day-to-day work and in case there is an emergency,” he explained.

Netanyahu prefers to see Knesset House Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu) in the position, but Finance Minister Yair Lapid insists the job should go to Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah, and the two are at a political impasse.

Hanegbi has been a loyal soldier of late, defending Netanyahu in interviews on Sunday and Monday after former prime minister Ehud Olmert criticized him for speaking out against Geneva deal with Iran, but senior Likud sources say there’s no news on the chairmanship front.

Still, a senior Yesh Atid source said the party gave Netanyahu “no choice” and that he will certainly choose Shelah, however she denied the party threatened to leave the coalition over the matter.

“We have a majority in the House Committee,” the source said. “Netanyahu is only delaying the announcement because he doesn’t want to look weak in the Likud.”

Meanwhile, the full committee has not met in nearly a month, though its subcommittees are still active.

On Monday, the Knesset discussed motions to the agenda on the topic by MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor) and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz).

“Something has to be done now. If God forbid there’s a military action that requires the committee to convene, we won’t have a committee,” said Cabel. “I’m being careful not to intervene in who should be the next chairman, but we cannot allow this saga to continue.” Cabel called on Edelstein to make an ultimatum that if the government does not decide within a week, the Knesset will.

Horowitz also spoke on the issue, making a reference to the Prime Minister’s Residence’s budgeting thousands of shekels for scented candles, which was revealed on Sunday.

“No scented candle can cover the bad smell this government gives off,” he said. “Not appointing a committee chairman shows this government’s poor management in several fronts,” Horowitz continued, pointing to the World Powers’ agreements with Iran and Syria, as well as peace talks with the Palestinians.

Perhaps the government doesn’t want the Foreign Affairs Defense Committee to meet so it won’t have to answer tough questions, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said.

“It cannot be that the Knesset doesn’t have a committee supervising everyday affairs or authorizing the IDF and security budget,” Rivlin added. “We have to demand that the government find a solution.”
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