Barak may give back key Knesset committee

Paz-Pines on offer of Foreign Affairs and Defense chairmanship: He can do what he wants, I am not for sale.

A week after Labor's convention approved joining Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, Labor chairman Ehud Barak still has not finished allocating the plum positions the party received. Barak appointed himself and his top three loyalists as ministers and used Labor's fifth cabinet seat to win over new Minister-without-Portfolio for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman away from his opponents in the party. But Barak still has not found a Labor MK willing to serve as chairman of the prestigious Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He wants to give the position to the leader of the Labor rebels, MK Ophir Paz-Pines, but only if he comes around and supports the government. "He can't get the committee if he doesn't play by the rules," a source close to Barak said. "We might have to give the committee back to the Likud." Paz-Pines responded that Barak should not hold his breath. He said he would remain loyal to his ideology. "Ophir will not play the game by the rules," Paz-Pines said, referring to himself in third person. "Barak can forget about it. He can do whatever he wants. I am not for sale." If Labor gave the committee back to the Likud, Netanyahu could have a hard time finding an MK qualified to lead it. There are only seven Likud lawmakers who are not ministers, deputy ministers, Knesset speaker or coalition chairman. All seven are first-timers in the Knesset and the only one with any significant military background is former IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev. Likud sources said Regev had lobbied Netanyahu's associates for the position. "Not only am Ifit for the position, but Netanyahu would make history if he would appoint a woman," she said. Barak convened the Labor faction for the first time since the convention on Wednesday. His associates said the atmosphere in the faction had improved. But opponents of joining the coalition said they would reject any attempt by Barak to impose faction discipline. The Labor lawmakers unanimously elected MK Daniel Ben-Simon as faction chairman, a position that will undoubtedly involve mediating among the party's MKs and putting out fires in the faction.