Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu, Lapid End Portfolio War

A six-month standoff prevented the appointment of a permanent chairman to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
By Shlomo Pitrikovsky, Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/12/2014, 11:15 AM

Lapid, Netanyahu
Lapid, Netanyahu
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the head of the Yesh Atid party, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, reached an agreement Monday morning on the appointment of a permanent chairman to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The standoff on this issue between the two men prevented the appointment of a permanent chairman to the the important and prestigious committee for about six months.

The two agreed that committee would be run by MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin, both of Likud-Beytenu, in a rotation arrangement. Lapid had been insisting that MK Ofer Shelah, of his faction, would be appointed to chair the committee. In exchange for Lapid's agreement to let the committee stay in the hands of Likud-Beytenu, Netanyahu agreed that a member of Yesh Atid would be appointed as a deputy minister.

As part of the deal, MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud-Beytenu), who was Netanyahu's favored candidate for chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, will be deputy foreign minister.

After the committee's former chairman, Avigdor Liberman, resigned his position in November, the committee simply did not convene for two months. 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 provides parliamentary oversight on 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.

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.