Bar-On appointment quashes anti-Mofaz efforts

Mofaz takes wind out of sails of critics with appointment of Bar-On, Livni’s top backer, as Foreign Affairs and Defense chair.

Shaul Mofaz 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shaul Mofaz 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz took the wind out of the sails of his critics in Kadima on Monday when he appointed MK Ronnie Bar-On, who was his predecessor Tzipi Livni’s top backer, as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Mofaz’s opponents in the faction had hoped to draft Bar-On to head their rebellion.
They saw him as their candidate for opposition leader if they would split with nine MKs and surpass Labor as the largest opposition faction.
Bar-On will replace Mofaz, who gave up the committee to become opposition leader and now vice premier. Bar-On had to give up his post as chairman of the State Control Committee, because the committee must be led by an opposition MK.
There had been speculation that Mofaz would give the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairmanship to MK Avi Dichter, who is a former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief and has been active in the committee. But Dichter turned down the post in hopes of being appointed a minister when Kadima is expected to receive portfolios in the summer.
Kadima will also be given the chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee later this month. The main candidates for the post include MKs Meir Sheetrit and Ruhama Avraham-Balila, but both may decide in the end to hold out for a portfolio.
One option for Mofaz is to insist that whoever becomes a minister quits the Knesset in order to allow new MKs on the Kadima list to enter. The next two Kadima candidates on the list are both strong Mofaz supporters, Druse activist Akram Hasoon and the strongman in Kadima’s Arab sector, Ahmed Dabbah of Deir el-Asad.
While it looked like Kadima would also receive the Immigration Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee as part of the coalition deal, it became apparent Monday that the party will instead elect to keep the Science and Technology Committee, which is headed by MK Ronit Tirosh, a longtime Mofaz supporter.
In another step to prevent a rebellion in Kadima, the Knesset will vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that would increase the number of Kadima MKs needed to break off from the faction from seven to 10. Several MKs criticized Mofaz for advancing the bill in Monday’s Kadima faction meeting.
“We look like we are not a serious party when we propose bills like these,” MK Yoel Hasson said. “We look like we can’t stop making political deals.”
Yisrael Beytenu decided Monday to oppose the bill, making it increasingly unlikely that the legislation will pass.
“Our party will not participate in this attempt to make a mockery of the Knesset,” a Yisrael Beytenu spokesman said.