Knesset Diaspora panel becomes focus of political dispute

Likud coalition chairman keeps Labor MK from committee chairmanship, after the latter attempted to bring down Netanyahu government.

Ze’ev Elkin 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski [file])
Ze’ev Elkin 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski [file])
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) took revenge against Labor rebel MK Daniel Ben-Simon on Saturday night, announcing that he would prevent the latter from taking over the chairmanship of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.
Ben-Simon had expected to receive the committee chairmanship when several committees shift hands at the beginning of November according to the coalition agreement. But Elkin vetoed Ben-Simon’s appointment due to his efforts to bring down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.
“It has always been a rule that to get the benefits of being a member of the coalition you have to be loyal to the coalition,” Elkin said.
“Ben-Simon has become a rebel and even joined the opposition in its efforts to draft 40 MKs to force the prime minister to come to the Knesset. Ben-Simon should realize that this behavior is unacceptable.”
Elkin said that if Ben-Simon or another Labor MK would not sign a document vowing to be loyal to the coalition, the committee would be temporarily held by the Likud.
One possibility is to give the committee to Labor MK Einat Wilf, but she is said to be interested in holding out for the chairmanship of the Knesset Education Committee, which Labor will receive next year according to the coalition agreement.
Ben-Simon expressed outrage over Elkin’s efforts to prevent him from receiving the committee chairmanship.
He said he had limited his membership in other Knesset forums because he expected to be busy as a committee chairman.
“In November, I am taking over the chairmanship of the committee as the Labor faction decided unanimously,” Ben-Simon said. “I dare anyone in the coalition to try to take it away from me. This is not a totalitarian state and no one can force me to sign any loyalty oath.”
Meanwhile, in the Labor leadership race, a Panels poll was published over the weekend that asked the public which candidate would make them more likely to vote for the party.
According to the poll, 51 percent said no potential candidate could make them consider voting for the party, 19% said MK Shelly Yacimovich, 16% said Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, 9% said incumbent party chairman Ehud Barak and 5% said Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman.