MKs to choose new Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman this week

Committee is still missing a chairman, after Avigdor Liberman left role last month to resume post as FM.

December 15, 2013 16:55
2 minute read.
The Knesset.

Knesset 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s choice of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman will be brought to a vote in the Knesset House Committee this week.

Edelstein requested that House Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu) call a vote.

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“As you know, for over a month the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee does not have a chairman,” Edelstein wrote to Hanegbi. “In this situation, the committee cannot call meetings and there is no parliamentary supervision of the Defense and Foreign ministries. We cannot allow this situation to continue for much longer.”

Two weeks ago, Edelstein gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu an ultimatum: Choose a chairman for the panel, or I’ll do it myself.

The committee is still missing a chairman, after Avigdor Liberman left the role last month to return as foreign minister on November 11, as Netanyahu has yet to appoint one, and it has been unable to hold general meetings ever since.

Because the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Knesset’s most prestigious panel, deals with sensitive and classified materials, the law forbids the Knesset from appointing a chairman who would serve less than three months.

Netanyahu would prefer to see Hanegbi in the position, but Finance Minister Yair Lapid insists the job should go to Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah.

Lapid and Netanyahu agreed to a rotation between Hanegbi and Shelah, but they are at an impasse as to who would be first, since whoever is second may never get the job if there is an early election.

A Likud source said Netanyahu would be fine with whoever Edelstein chooses, as long as it is not Shelah.

Shelah, a freshman lawmaker, does not meet the three requirements for a chairman Edelstein described last week.

“My criteria are clear. I want someone with parliamentary experience, who’s a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and who has a broad consensus of faction leaders behind him,” he said.

Edelstein is thought to prefer MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) for the job, as he is the Knesset’s veteran member, is already on the committee and is in the coalition. Sheetrit has been in the parliament since 1981, with a nearly four-year break in 1988-92.

Other sources mentioned MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who has been in the legislature since 1984, as a possibility. The Knesset speaker, however, refused to discuss names openly, though he spoke to faction leaders about the options this week.

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