Ariel to lead State Control C'tee; Labor fumes

Unity gov't flexes its muscles at 26-MK opposition, appointing Nat'l Union MK over objections of Labor, who wanted Peretz.

Labor chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Labor chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The unity coalition flexed its muscles at the 26-seat opposition, voting in MK Uri Ariel (National Union) as chairman of the Knesset’s State Control Committee on Tuesday, despite objections from Labor, the opposition’s largest party.
The committee chairman was selected in a heated Knesset House Committee debate, in which 10 parliamentarians supported Ariel, and only MKs Amir Peretz (Labor) and Ilan Gilon (Meretz) opposed. The MKs unanimously backed MK Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) as Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman at the same meeting.
“This is one of the most important and influential jobs in the Knesset,” Ariel said. “I am aware of the weightiness, and I plan to be unbiased and cooperate with Joseph Shapira, the new state comptroller, and his office in order to improve and develop the government system in Israel.”
New opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) sought to place an MK from her faction at the head of the State Control Committee, specifically her chief rival MK Amir Peretz, who is also backed by Arab parties.
However, after Kadima joined the coalition, Ariel was the only opposition MK who remained a member of the committee – a prerequisite for the chairmanship.
During the Knesset House Committee meeting, Peretz said that while he values Ariel as a legislator, the National Union is not a real opposition member, and electing him turns the State Control Committee into a joke.
According to Peretz, Ariel is a Trojan horse working against the opposition and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) is “mocking every remnant of seriousness and democracy” by backing the National Union MK.
“I am amazed by Elkin’s ability to be both nice and destructive; it is an amazing combination,” the Labor MK said. “Elkin, you are a ze’ev [“wolf” in Hebrew], and a wolf in the forest wants to eat everything, but isn’t there a limit to what a wolf can eat? If you eat and eat, in the end you will choke, God forbid.
“You ate all of democracy. What happened to you?” Peretz asked.
Labor plans to fight and use every parliamentary tool possible in the effort, faction chairman Isaac Herzog (Labor) added, calling Ariel’s appointment “underhanded opportunism” that took place before a vote on the party’s request to add members to the committee.
“It cannot be that a representative of a right-wing party that often identifies with the coalition will lead the State Control Committee,” he lamented.
Elkin called Labor’s attempt to install Peretz at the head of the committee “pathetic and pitiful.”
The Likud MK pointed out that Labor gave up seats in the State Control Committee at the beginning of the 18th Knesset, “and therefore, they cannot demand them back now, when they suddenly remember it is important, and expect to be the committee chairman.”
Elkin suggested that Labor MKs study Knesset regulations before making “ridiculous demands.” Although his party is in the coalition and he voted for Ariel, MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) said the new situation in the State Control Committee should be changed and opposition MKs should be given seats, even if it is “uncomfortable” for the coalition.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) criticized Elkin in a speech to the plenum later on Tuesday, saying his support of Ariel is problematic, and the coalition may not chose the opposition members it finds most supportive.
According to Knesset regulations, the opposition has one week to choose a committee chairman, but Elkin refused to wait, Henin explained.
“Elkin used all his power to crush the opposition, parliamentary work and democracy,” the Hadash MK said. “This is an anti-democratic move. We do not need a decorative opposition.”