The Knesset will name a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman on May 12, the first day of the Knesset’s summer session, Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon informed the High Court of Justice.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to choose either Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, departing coalition chairman Yariv Levin or Knesset House Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi, all from the Likud, or Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah for the prestigious post.
Yinon’s announcement on Thursday came in response to petitions to the court from opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) along with his party’s MKs Eitan Cabel and Nachman Shai and the Movement for Quality of Government in Israel, six months after Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman left his post at the head of the sensitive committee.
Since then, the panel has not had a chairman.
On April 10, the High Court issued an interim order to the Knesset to select a chairman or announce the imminent appointment of one by May 1.
Although legally, the responsibility to appoint committee chairmen is the Knesset speaker’s, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee post is usually a political appointment by the prime minister.
In his message to the High Court, Yinon attached a letter that he sent to Hanegbi on April 10, immediately after the hearing, to let him know that the Knesset’s proposal of selecting a chairman by May 29 had been rejected and that he should act swiftly so one could be appointed by May 1.
Yinon explained to the court that despite his best efforts, due to the short time frame and the Knesset still being in recess, May 12 was the earliest possible time for the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to convene to elect a chairman.
A Movement for Quality Government spokeswoman said: “We hope that this time, unlike after previous promises on the matter, the Knesset will finally succeed in closing this bleak story and appoint a chairman for the most important committee in the Knesset.
“This will bring an end to the continuing harm to the separation of powers, to the government trampling the Knesset and the damage to Israel’s security,” she said.
The court’s interim order last month ordering the parliament to name a chairman and its open exasperation had been a rare intervention by the judiciary into an ongoing political battle within the executive and legislative branches.
The court battered Yinon on the point that a subcommittee on intelligence that usually meets weekly had only met four times in the past half-year.
One twist in the hearing was that the order was not issued against Netanyahu, only against the Knesset and its various bodies, so the Prime Minister’s Office and Justice Ministry did not issue any responses on Thursday.