Likud boycotts votes on Knesset committees

Blue and White and allies to take over top Knesset posts

Blue and White MK Alon Schuster getssworn into the Knesset from the press gallery wearing masks and gloves, March 23, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Blue and White MK Alon Schuster getssworn into the Knesset from the press gallery wearing masks and gloves, March 23, 2020
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
The Likud and its satellite parties boycotted Monday evening's 61-0 vote to form the Knesset Arrangements Committees, to protest Blue and White's decision to not coordinate its appointments. Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein abstained.

A Likud spokesman said it was unacceptable that unlike in the past, when the committees were divided between the blocs until a government was formed, this time, all the committees will be headed by MKs in Blue and White's political bloc.

"At this critical time for Israel, instead of helping, Blue and White is using dictatorial and destructive tactics out of hatred and hunger for power," the Likud spokesman said. "Because of this shameful behavior, the Likud and the nationalist camp decided to boycott the proceedings of the Knesset."

The Arrangements Committee, which runs the Knesset until a government is formed, will have 17 members. There are nine from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's Center-Left bloc and eight from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Center-Right bloc. Five each are from Likud and Blue and White.

Blue and White faction chairman Avi Nissenkorn will head the Arrangements Committee that divides up the other posts. Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi will head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah will head a special committee that will oversee the government's handling of the coronavirus.

The Knesset Finance Committee will be headed by Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Oded Forer, despite the Joint List complaining and demanding to head the powerful committee. The Arrangements Committee voted nine to zero to approve the makeup of the committee.

Instead, Joint List faction chairman Ahmad Tibi will head a new committee on violence in the Arab sector and Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman will head the Knesset's Labor and Social Welfare Committee. The Joint List gave up its two places in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in return for an extra one in the Knesset Finance Committee.
A special committee on education will be led by Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz.

Blue and White MKs Alon Shuster and Ram Ben-Barak got sworn in from the press gallery wearing masks and gloves, because they are in quarantine, due to their contact with a mayor who contracted the coronavirus.

Nissenkorn said he would initiate laws to enable voting from outside the building. Blue and White MK Izhar Shai, who has worked for many years in hi-tech, said zoom should be used for voting.

Deputy Finance Minister Itzik Cohen (Shas) became the latest MK to enter home quarantine on Sunday. He was in the presence of a person who contracted the coronavirus and so placed himself in quarantine under the Health Ministry's instruction until March 28.

Cohen is the fifth MK from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-center bloc in quarantine, joining ministers Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), Arye Deri (Shas), Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) and Shas MK Moshe Abutbul.

The only quarantined MKs from the left-center bloc are Shuster and Ben-Barak.

If a permanent solution is found for distance voting, it could also solve the problem that MKs are not given maternity or paternity leave. Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg gave birth to a baby girl named Rachel last month. Blue and White MK Merav Cohen is eight months pregnant.
 
Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.