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Edelstein to Temporarily Head Most Important Committee

Knesset Speaker plans to appoint himself as temporary Chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee due to coalition spat.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/18/2013, 2:18 AM

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
Hezki Ezra

Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) is planning to appoint himself as temporary Chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, amid a spat between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the identity of the permanent chairman.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Knesset’s most important committee, has been without a chairman since Avigdor Liberman was reinstated as Foreign Minister.

Netanyahu and Lapid have quarreled over the identity of Liberman’s replacement, with Netanyahu wishing to appoint Likud MK Tzahi Hanegbi to the position, while Lapid insists on appointing MK Ofer Shelah of his Yesh Atid party.

According to a Tuesday evening report on Channel 2 News, Edelstein, fed up with the fighting between Likud and Yesh Atid, has decided to appoint himself as temporary chairman. As this requires a change in the Knesset regulations, Edelstein will ask the Knesset’s legal advisor to amend the regulations so that he is allowed to head the committee.

Edelstein confirmed the report, saying, “Once I realized that the coalition, the opposition and the Knesset factions are failing to agree on one candidate to head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and out of a sense of responsibility for the Knesset which I head, and in order to maintain the integrity of parliamentary work, I decided not to allow the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to turn into a kindergarten for these and other reasons.”

He added, "As Speaker of the Knesset it is incumbent on me to overlook the work of the Knesset with impartiality and with objectivity and I intend to do so as chair of the committee.”

The disagreement over the head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is only one in a series of recent disagreements between the members of the coalition.

Earlier this week, senior members of Likud were quoted as having said they were “fed up” with the behavior of Lapid and members of Yesh Atid. They were reportedly irritated by Lapid voting against the proposal to set up a public committee to discuss the possibility of purchasing a plane for the prime minister for flights abroad.

As this was not the first time that Yesh Atid’s ministers have tried to sabotage proposals, Likud officials said that if this continues, Netanyahu would consider parting ways with Yesh Atid in favor of the hareidi-religious parties.

In addition, Lapid has also had several disagreements with Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett.

According to Channel 2 News, the tension between the members of the coalition is expected to come to a head on Wednesday, as Yesh Atid is planning to unilaterally bring to a vote a bill by MK Adi Koll which calls to implement tax benefits for same-sex couples. The Jewish Home objects to this bill.

As an act of “revenge” against Yesh Atid, the report said, the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home parties will bring to a vote a bill by MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), which stipulates that any negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over Jerusalem would require the approval of 80 members of the 120-member Knesset.