Knesset panel to discuss Israel's dire int'l standing

Key Knesset panel to dis

MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told The Jerusalem Post that he welcomed a call on Thursday by MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) to schedule a hearing on Israel's international standing in light of the Goldstone Report. Hanegbi said that he "welcomed the initiative" and that a session would be held in the coming weeks. He added that he was considering holding the meeting in a rare open-door session that would allow public transparency regarding Israel's response to the report, as well as to what Paz-Pines described as "a continuing process" of "decline" in the nation's reputation. In his letter, which was addressed to Hanegbi and copied to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), Paz-Pines demanded that "the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee be urgently convened for a hearing on the fears of the collapse of Israel's diplomatic standing." "The Goldstone Report created a chain of diplomatic damages, the latest of which are the special hearing in the UN Security Council and the hearing at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva," Paz-Pines wrote. "Our relations with Turkey are at an unprecedented low, and are extremely concerning, and it is possible that a regional power that was our ally is pulling out of the pact and growing closer to Israel's enemies. In parallel, our relations with the United States are continuing to be strained and it doesn't seem that there is going to be any turnaround in this trend, and the contacts with the Palestinians have already fallen through, with no breakthrough on the horizon." The "Knesset cannot fail to discuss this matter and sit with our hands folded, in light of the fear of the collapse of the Israeli diplomatic policy. The Knesset must hear official reports from the government, offer advice and to make sure that the government is taking appropriate steps to cope with the situation," Paz-Pines said. But not all members of the powerful committee agreed with the Labor lawmaker. Coalition chairman and fellow committee member MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) described Paz-Pines's demand as strange and counterproductive. The committee, he said, has held a number of meetings regarding Israel's diplomatic front, including with both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "It seems to me like a strange argument, because we do and have discussed Israel's international standing, and there is an entire subcommittee that just met recently devoted to diplomatic affairs," Elkin said. "I think it is strange because it weakens our standing as seen from abroad," added Elkin, a close Netanyahu ally." "This could be taken from theater of the absurd - the current government is defending the actions of the previous government during Operation Cast Lead, while the members of that government complain about the way in which we are doing so."