Kadima race leaves key Knesset positions in balance

Analysis: While Likud sources say the party would be happy to leave the committees as they are, final decision rests on Kadima primary.

Avi Dichter 311 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Avi Dichter 311 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The chairmanship of two key Knesset committees hangs in the balance ahead of Tuesday’s Kadima race.
Kadima leadership hopeful MK Shaul Mofaz is the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a job usually given to a coalition lawmaker, while MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) heads the Economics Committee, which is traditionally an opposition post. Likud and Kadima are meant to trade committees by the Knesset’s summer session, which begins at the end of April.
While Likud sources say the party would be happy to leave the committees as they are, the final decision will likely depend on whether Mofaz or Livni wins the primary.
Sources in Mofaz’s camp have denied rumors that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman has promised to give his position to MK Avi Dichter (Kadima), in return for Dichter quitting the Kadima race and endorsing Mofaz.
Other sources said that Mofaz would continue to head the Foreign Affairs Committee even if he becomes the next leader of Kadima, so he could use it as a platform to speak out against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on security issues, as he has done in the past.
Both Mofaz and Livni could use the Economics Committee to their political advantage, giving the chairman position as an appreciative gesture to allies or a way to placate opponents within Kadima.
Should the Economics Committee remain in the Likud’s hands, Shama-Hacohen may have to fight to defend his seat. At the beginning of this Knesset, MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) was chairman of the key committee, which deals with topics such as transportation, communications, consumer issues and others.
While Shama-Hacohen is supposed to step down before the summer session, Netanyahu could give him an extra four months, since Akunis served in the position four months longer than planned.
Shama-Hacohen is seen as one of the more sociallyminded Likud legislators, which could help boost the Likud’s image in the next elections. However, he has also spoken out against the coalition on related issues, such as gas and housing prices.
Akunis, on the other hand, is both very close and very loyal to Netanyahu, and caused less “trouble” as chairman of the Economics Committee.
With all of these factors at play, the outcome is still unclear, but some sort of committee chairmanship shuffle can be expected at the end of next month.