Court Prods Netanyahu to Tap Chief for Knesset Foreign Affairs Panel

Netanyahu and Lapid each wants their man to head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee first.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Netanyahu and Lapid.
Netanyahu and Lapid. Credit: Archive
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The High Court of Justice ordered the Knesset Thursday to explain by early May why it hasn’t appointed a chairman for its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee after Avigdor Lieberman left the post to be reinstated as foreign minister.

Indirectly, Thursday's move is a rebuke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ultimately is responsible for appointing the committee chairman.

Netanyahu said earlier this month he could not keep his pledge to appoint a committee chairman by the beginning of April; he said he was too busy trying to craft a deal in which the United States would free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid agreed earlier this year that the committee chairmanship would rotate between MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) and MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid). But each party leader insisted that his man be appointed first, so the post remained empty.

The court’s move Thursday came in response to a petition by opposition leader Isaac Herzog and two fellow Labor Party MKs, Eitan Cabel and Nachman Shai.

“The appointment of a chairman for the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has become one of the embarrassing sagas in the Knesset's annals,” Herzog said.

“Once again the prime minister failed to keep his promise to appoint a committee chairman .... Is it any wonder he can’t get us out of the standstill in the peace process when he can’t even appoint a chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee unless a court makes him?”

According to Shai, “For the past six months the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been hobbling. Israel has no proper, comprehensive parliamentary supervision over its defense and foreign affairs operations. It’s an unprecedented situation — the government has shaken off parliamentary supervision and is doing anything it likes.”

Netanyahu is now considering Likud MKs Hanegbi, Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin or outgoing coalition chairman Yariv Levin for the position, sources say.

Lieberman won back his post as foreign minister in November after he was acquitted of breach-of-trust charges.

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