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Knesset approves Edelstein as chairman of foreign affairs, defense panel
By LAHAV HARKOV
18/12/2013
Coalition crisis averted as Yesh Atid postpones gay parents tax break bill on condition of PM's support.
 
Lawmakers set the groundwork for Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to be chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, after the coalition narrowly avoided a crisis on Wednesday.

“The situation of the past weeks is intolerable,” the speaker said of the Knesset’s most prestigious panel not having a chairman or meetings for over a month.

“I’m not lacking in work; I wasn’t looking for [the committee chairman] job. This isn’t a real solution, but I had to take initiative,” Edelstein added The Knesset House Committee voted in a change in regulations, which states that if a committee is left without a chairman for over two weeks, the speaker has the right to call meetings for that panel and select a committee member to preside over it.

This situation can last 45 days, after which the House Committee would have to renew it. The change in regulations would only apply until the next general election.

Still, regulation changes only take effect after two weeks, and the defense budget needs to be approved by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee by the end of December, which is less than two weeks after the vote.

The House Committee on Monday voted in its chairman, Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu), to lead the subcommittee on the budget, but Yesh Atid removed a request for a revote on condition Hanegbi will be removed from the post after the budget is approved.

Edelstein chose himself as Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman after six weeks in which no one replaced now-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in the position.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid reached an impasse over who would get the job - Hanegbi or Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah.

After a month, they agreed on a rotation, but not on who would go first.

Earlier, another Lapid-Netanyahu near-crisis was averted, when Yesh Atid agreed to postpone the vote on a bill giving tax breaks to gay parents until next week, in exchange for Netanyahu’s support for the legislation.

The bill, proposed by MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid), grants tax benefits to male gay parents equal to those heterosexual parents receive. The proposal does so by giving gay couples a tax break that is meant to encourage mothers to join the workforce.

However, legislation by Shelah and MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, passed preliminary readings on Wednesday, with the coalition’s support.
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