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Netanyahu-Lapid fight leads to coalition crisis
By GIL HOFFMAN AND LAHAV HARKOV
17/12/2013
PM, finance minister unable to agree on c'tee chairman; Edelstein to head Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is facing a crisis inside his coalition due to disputes with Yesh Atid over controversial legislation and the chairmanship of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Because Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid could not agree on a candidate to head the influential committee, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will appoint himself to the post on Wednesday.

Lapid wanted his confidant, Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah, to receive the post, but Netanyahu vetoed Shelah. In response, Yesh Atid decided to violate agreements with the Likud and Bayit Yehudi and bring a controversial bill on benefits for gay male parents to a vote on Wednesday.

“The coalition crisis is real,” a Likud source said.

“Lapid is breaking deals because he took the committee chairmanship issue personally. He will find out things cannot be done this way.”

Yesh Atid officials said the gay-benefits bill would be watered down “and made pareve” so the Likud and Bayit Yehudi could support it, but Likud sources said “that would not make the bill kosher” and that the two parties, together with haredi and Arab factions, would vote against it and prevent its passage.

If Yesh Atid brings the benefits bill to a vote, the Likud will raise even more controversial legislation that MK Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) has proposed: requiring the support of 80 MKs to withdraw from any portion of municipal Jerusalem. Yesh Atid vigorously opposes that bill, but it may have a majority to pass in both the plenum and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Edelstein’s office confirmed Tuesday night that he was his own choice to chair the committee, even though the speaker previously said he would choose a current member of the committee.

“After I saw that the coalition and opposition factions were unable to agree on a chairman for the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I decided, out of responsibility for the house that I lead and in order to maintain the integrity of our important parliamentary work, not to let the panel [deteriorate],” Edelstein said.

The speaker added that as part of his job, he must “lead the Knesset without prejudice, objectively and in a completely balanced manner, and that is what I plan to do in the committee, as well.”

Two weeks ago, he gave Netanyahu an ultimatum: Choose a chairman for the panel, or I’ll do it myself.

Now, nearly six weeks after Avigdor Liberman left the role last month to return the post of foreign minister, Netanyahu has yet to appoint a chairman, and the committee has been unable to hold general meetings ever since.

Because the committee deals with sensitive and classified materials, the law forbids the Knesset to appoint a chairman who would serve for less than three months.
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