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Lapid Loses Battle for Key Knesset Committee

MKs Elkin and Levin will head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/11/2014, 8:20 AM

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin
Flash 90

A long-running bout of political arm-wrestling between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has apparently ended with a victory for Netanyahu, as the Knesset prepares to appoint two new chairmen to the important Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Israel Hayom reports that the Knesset's House Committee will meet Monday to approve the appointment of Likud-Beytenu MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin as heads of the committee, in a rotation arrangement that will see Elkin chair the committee for several months, and then be replaced by Levin until the end of the government's term.

The decision follows six months of wrangling over the key post, which began when Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman left his post as committee chairman in order to be reappointed as Foreign Minister. 

Yesh Atid demanded that MK Ofer Shelah be appointed in Liberman's stead, but Netanyahu refused, and reportedly sought to have MK Tzahi Hanegbi placed at its helm. For two months, the committee simply did not convene. Then, a temporary arrangment saw a different MK chairing the committee's sessions every time it met. When this became untenable, Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud Beytenu) was appointed as temporary head of the committee.

The matter reached the High Court, with Opposition Head and Labor Party Chairman MK Yizchak Herzog demanding that a chairman be appointed to the committee, which oversees all matters pertaining to Israel's defense establishment and security policies.

Both Elkin and Levin are reportedly interested in ending their current jobs as deputy minister for foreign affairs and coalition whip, respectively. Netanyahu wants someone he can fully trust at the head of the key committee – and it appears that Ofer Shelah will have to find another job for himself. 

Liberman had resigned as foreign minister and taken the post of committee chairman instead, when court proceedings against him began, in a corruption case. When the trial ended with his exoneration in early November, he returned to his former position, and the position of committee chairman became vacant.