Berko aims to be first woman to head key Knesset panel

Tough competition to head Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee • Hanegbi plans to leave post next month.

Anat Berko (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Anat Berko
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could make history if he decides to appoint Likud MK Anat Berko to head the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The current head of the committee, coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi, intends to leave both posts next month, because Netanyahu promised him he would be appointed a minister within a year of the government’s formation on May 14, 2015.
There will be stiff competition over both posts among Likud lawmakers. MKs David Bitan and Mickey Zohar want to be coalition chairman. MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), wants to head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, as does Berko, who will be speaking at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on May 22.
If Netanyahu appoints Berko, 56, she would be the first woman to hold the powerful post, which would entitle her to regular briefings from top security officials and access to top secret intelligence reports.
“There hasn’t been a female Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairwoman, but there also have not been too many women with my security and academic experience that are integral qualifications to lead the committee,” Berko said.
Berko served in the IDF for 25 years, ending her service with the rank of lieutenant- colonel. She directed ground forces in the Southern Command in the IDF’s Women’s Corps before it disbanded in 2001.
After earning her doctorate in criminology, she used her skills to administer a penitentiary. She has written books and articles and delivered lectures about the thought process and motivation of Palestinian terrorists.
Berko was Netanyahu’s choice for a reserved slot on the Likud list, and she remains close to him. Like Netanyahu, she is in favor of the creation of a Palestinian state but is concerned that the current timing is incorrect.
“I support a Palestinian state, but I say we need a state beside us, not instead of us, and what worries me is that they want a state instead of us,” Berko said. “I am for two states, but not like the Joint List thinks. One must be a Jewish state, and the other must be demilitarized and cannot control borders.
She also backed Netanyahu’s effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran, supporting his controversial speech to a joint session of Congress against the Iranian nuclear deal in March 2015.
Berko supports the creation of a national unity government. She called upon Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to join the coalition, as well as Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman.
When the next election takes place, Berko will run for the first time for a slot on the Likud candidates list without it being reserved for her. To that end, she has been going to political events, parlor meetings and Passover toasts hosted by party activists across the country.
“If Netanyahu didn’t call me, I wouldn’t have come to politics,” she admitted. “But everything I do, I do my best, so yes, I want to run. I am hearing good things, the party activists appreciate what I do. I think they will vote for me, and I intend to win.”