Yitzhaki to ask Litzman to leave willingly

Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki will meet with Knesset Finance Committee chairman Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset on Wednesday to ask him to leave his position willingly before Yitzhaki begins the process of toppling him. Israel Beiteinu received the chairmanship of the committee in last week's coalition reshuffle. Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman decided on Sunday to give the post to freshman MK Stas Meseznicov, a former Rishon Lezion city councilman who holds a master's degree in business administration from Tel Aviv University, according to the Knesset Web site. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to remove Litzman from his post after Litzman's United Torah Judaism party decided against joining the coalition. But Litzman said repeatedly on Tuesday that he had no intention of leaving his post. "They are trying to remove me because I stand up for my principles and not because I have done anything wrong," Litzman said. "I will fight to remain the chairman of the committee so I can continue helping the 760,000 children under the poverty line." As of Tuesday, the coalition did not have a majority of the 19 committee members to topple Litzman. Four coalition members said they intended to vote against Litzman's removal: David Tal (Kadima), Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) and Amnon Cohen (Shas). Cohen said Litzman's removal "is not going to happen" and a Shas spokesman said the party would not vote to topple Litzman even under pressure from Olmert and Yitzhaki. Yitzhaki expressed confidence that he would be able to persuade Litzman to leave willingly. He said that if he did not succeed, Tal and Yacimovich would be temporarily replaced by other MKs from their factions to allow the toppling of Litzman to pass. No timetable has been set for meetings of the Knesset House Committee or the Finance Committee to discuss Litzman's removal. Labor faction chairman Yoram Marciano said the appointments of Isaac Herzog as social affairs minister and Ghaleb Majadle as science, culture and sports minister would not be brought to a vote in the Knesset until Meseznicov's appointment was completed. The Knesset vote on Herzog and Majadle's appointments had been set for next Tuesday but may have to be delayed pending the problems with toppling Litzman.