MKs Wilf and Mofaz.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Despite warnings from House Committee Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) that his
committee would appoint a successor to former Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi in the coming week, the committee has not yet
scheduled any meetings to discuss the ousted MK’s successor. Levin has called
upon the heads of all Knesset factions to submit their nominees for the position
by Monday, but the main conflict over the committee’s leadership, a battle for
power between Kadima and Likud, is far from over.
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“The Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee naturally deals with topics of the highest importance, in
terms of the Knesset’s oversight of the security services and of Israel’s
foreign relations,” wrote Levin in a letter to faction chairs, “A situation in
which the committee cannot operate or convene for a long period as a result of
the lack of a chairperson, is unacceptable, and it is our joint responsibility
to make a decision regarding the appointment of a chairperson as soon as
Levin reiterated his commitment to hold a hearing on the
committee’s leadership in the coming week, but as of Thursday evening, the topic
had not been added to the House Committee’s order of business for next week. He
stressed that faction leaders had until Monday to submit their nominee for the
position or – if the faction could not decide – a short list of nominees to
chair the committee.
Kadima, however, was dragging its feet in proposing
a replacement to Hanegbi, who was suspended earlier this week from the Knesset
after being found guilty of having acted with criminal intent when he lied under
oath while being investigated for making illicit political appointments. When
the current Knesset was formed, Kadima gave up the traditionally opposition-held
chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee in exchange for allowing Hanegbi
to continue to chair the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he had led
Kadima has maintained since Hanegbi’s suspension that the
faction should be returned the chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee,
and that the leadership of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee should be
returned to the coalition.
“Kadima sticks to its right to receive the
Economic Affairs Committee as was agreed at the beginning of the term with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,” a Kadima official said. “Kadima intends to
continue to fight for this right and expects the prime minister and the
coalition to stop denying reality and trying to break traditional agreements in
the Knesset because of narrow political and economic considerations.”
the early days of the coalition, Labor had been offered the committee’s
leadership, but neither of the two Labor candidates – then-MK Ophir Paz-Pines or
MK Eitan Cabel – agreed to take the position.
Now, a year-and-a-half
later, Labor has already said that freshman MK Einat Wilf (Labor), a member of
the committee, is the faction’s nominee to chair the committee should the
chairmanship be returned to the coalition partners.
Coalition Chairman MK
Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) has ruled out that possibility, saying that if Kadima
refuses to select a chairperson from within the opposition party’s ranks, the
coalition will pick a Kadima MK to do so. In that case, the most likely
candidate would be MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s
fiercest in-party rival, and a former defense minister and IDF
Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller and Avi Dichter have
also been suggested as alternative candidates.