Ben-Simon blames Barak for losing Knesset committee

Labor MK calls his fellow party members ‘dishrags’

MK Daniel Ben-Simon lashed out at the Likud and his own Labor Party on Monday, following a decision to temporarily appoint Likud MK Danny Danon to head the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.
Ben-Simon was due to receive the post on Wednesday, according to the coalition agreement that granted Labor the committee chairmanship for the second third of the Knesset’s term.
But coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin refused to give Ben- Simon the job unless he signed a loyalty oath to the government’s policies, which he has regularly rebelled against.
“This is scandalous political thievery, and we won’t let them get away with it,” Ben-Simon said.
But Ben-Simon saved his fiercest criticism for his own party colleagues. He blamed Labor chairman Ehud Barak and faction chairman Shalom Simhon for not pushing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to instruct Elkin to abide by the coalition agreement.
“I expected the heads of the party to fight against the Soviet-style dictates of the coalition chairman requiring me to sign a loyalty oath,” Ben-Simon said in a press release. “But instead they acted like people who have lost the remnant of their self-respect, and allowed this farce to continue. The faction has stopped fighting on any issue – not diplomatic, not socioeconomic, and not for its members.”
Ben-Simon went even further in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, saying that Labor MKs had proven that they were “dishrags.”
“Labor is acting like a party at death’s door,” he said. “If we can’t even fight for what we have coming to us, it is no wonder the party looks this bad to the public.”
A fight broke out in Labor’s faction meeting between Simhon and MK Amir Peretz, who said the party should have done more for Ben- Simon. A source close to Barak said he understood why Ben-Simon would not be given the post after his flip-flops on key issues.
Danon said he was excited about receiving the committee chairmanship. He joked to Netanyahu in the Likud faction meeting that once he “occupied the territory” of the committee, he did not intend to concede it.
Elkin said it was reasonable to ask that committee chairmen support the government.
He said Barak did the same when he was looking for a chairman for the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee.
But Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin defended Ben- Simon and said MKs’ freedom of conscience trumped coalition discipline. In a further dispute between Rivlin and Netanyahu, the Knesset speaker said the post should be given to Ben-Simon immediately.
At Netanyahu’s request, the Likud faction decided to delay for 45 days the transfer of the Knesset Economics Committee chairmanship from his ally, Likud MK Ophir Akunis, to Likud MK Carmel Shama. Netanyahu tried unsuccessfully to persuade Shama to become a deputy minister in order to keep Akunis at the helm of the committee, which deals with reforms that are close to Netanyahu’s heart.
The Knesset Education Committee will now be headed by Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller, who at 33 is the youngest head of the panel ever.