Ze'ev Elkin 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The race to succeed Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman as Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman heated up on Thursday, with more MKs throwing their hats into the ring.
At least five Likud lawmakers see themselves as suitable for the job, while Yesh Atid is making claims to the chairmanship as well.
The position, which involves the Knesset’s most powerful and prestigious committee, will have to be filled soon, as Liberman will vacate it and be sworn in as foreign minister on Monday, after the government approves his nomination on Sunday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a Likud MK who has a close relationship with Liberman, is a frontrunner for the job. At any rate, Elkin will automatically be fired from his current position at Sunday’s cabinet meeting; he has been deputy to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the latter’s capacity as acting foreign minister.
Whether Elkin will later return to this position or fill Liberman’s shoes on the Knesset committee remains to be seen, but his spokeswoman said that while he doesn’t deny being intrigued by the job, his schedule is full of Foreign Ministry-related appointments for the coming months.
Knesset House Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu) is also a leading contender. He is a close ally of Netanyahu and was head of the foreign affairs and defense panel in the 17th Knesset and part of the 18th.
However, coalition chairman Yariv Levin and Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Government Ofir Akunis, both from Likud Beytenu, are also angling for the position.
The two were supposed to trade jobs next year, but both told Netanyahu they would like to replace Liberman.
Levin said earlier this week that he’d be willing to continue as coalition chairman while leading the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee if necessary.
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) wants the position, too, telling Netanyahu on Wednesday night that she saw herself as a candidate.
A former IDF spokeswoman, Regev recently came under fire for convening her committee to berate a whistleblower who accused an ally of hers, Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, of alleged corruption.
She is known for her brash outspokenness, much like Liberman.
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid is still arguing that it deserves the post because it has three committee chairmanships as opposed to Likud Beytenu’s five. The party is against increasing the number of ministers in the government and sees allowing Liberman in as a sacrifice. As such, it would like MK Ofer Shelah, its faction chair and a former military reporter who has written books about the IDF, to head the panel.
Another condition Yesh Atid is negotiating in return for Liberman’s entry to the government involves adding Science and Technology Minister Ya’acov Peri, a former Shin Bet chief, to the Security Cabinet.
Liberman’s swearing-in means that he and another Yisrael Beytenu member, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, will be part of that cabinet, with only one member from Yesh Atid, Finance Minister and party chairman Yair Lapid.