"The coalition and the cabinet have the MKs by the throat, because everyone's waiting for the appointment of a new Knesset Finance Committee chairman," a committee member complained yesterday. Yisrael Beiteinu left the governing coalition about a month ago, but that hasn't prevented the coalition from leaving MK Stas Misezhnikov as chair.
Initially, there was talk of Misezhnikov staying until the release of the Winograd Report, to avoid destabilizing the coalition beforehand. The report has been out for two weeks, but with the latest threats to the government's stability - resignation threats by Eli Yishai of Shas, United Torah Judaism's announcement that it won't join the coalition and the continuing Qassam barrages on Sderot - no one in the coalition wants to create a new crisis with Yisrael Beiteinu. For now, Misezhnikov continues to deliver the goods: The committee approved the treasury's proposals despite the fact that its chairman is now in the opposition.
Misezhnikov continues to conduct committee sessions, in the expectation of remaining at his post like his predecessor, MK Yaakov Litzman (UTJ), who stayed at the helm even after his party went into the opposition, until his removal in March 2007, after the chairmanship was promised to Yisrael Beiteinu. Litzman has not forgotten his dismissal, and yesterday he reiterated that his party will not join the coalition and that he doesn't want to be Finance Committee chair even if he remains in the opposition. If Litzman won't take the position now, there's no reason for the coalition to get into trouble with Misezhnikov.
Knesset members have been suggesting other candidates for the lofty position. Some coalition figures argue that the job could be offered to Meretz in exchange for the party's joining the coalition or promising support from without. But MK Haim Oron, who is currently seeking the party chairmanship, has vehemently rejected the offer.
Other names being bandied about include MKs David Tal (Kadima) and Avishay Braverman (Labor). This week Braverman announced that he would not support a bill, championed jointly by the Israel Manufacturers Association and the Histadrut labor federation, aimed at forcing the Bank of Israel governor to intervene in interest rates.
In the meantime, with no other party in the offing that could keep the coalition together from within or from the outside, Misezhnikov is still in the driver's seat at the Finance Commitee.
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