After Week-long Paralysis, Knesset Approves Forming Crucial Panel

The Arrangements Committee will establish other committees to oversee the work of the government, including a special committee to handle the coronavirus outbreak

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israelis protest the paralysis of the Knesset amid the coronavirus outbreak in front of the Knesset building, March 23, 2020.
Israelis protest the paralysis of the Knesset amid the coronavirus outbreak in front of the Knesset building, March 23, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwingberger
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset approved Monday evening the establishment of the Arrangements Committee, which is responsible for establishing the other committees that will oversee the work of the government, and will finally allow the Knesset to begin its work following Israel's March 2 election.

After the Arrangements Committee begins work, they will decide on the composition of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Finance Committee and a special committee to manage the coronavirus epidemic.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 70Credit: Haaretz

The establishment of the Arrangements Committee will also allow the advancement of legislation, including a law that will prevent a prime minister from serving while under indictment, an initiative that has been pushed for by the center-left bloc.

The right-wing bloc aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boycotted the vote, excluding Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein who abstained and Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Gallant, who attended as a representative of the government, but did not participate in the vote.

The composition of the arrangements committee will give the center-left bloc a one seat advantage with 9 members, relative to the right-wing bloc’s eight members. The committee will be chaired by Avi Nissenkorn of Kahol Lavan. Nissenkorn received the job in accordance with the law, which says the committee will be chaired by a member of the party whose representative was tasked with forming a government by the president.

Alongside Nissenkorn, there will be four additional representatives from Kahol Lavan: Karin Elharrar, Izhar Shay, Pnina Tamano-Shata, and Asaf Zamir. The Joint List will have two representatives in the committee, Yisrael Beiteinu will have one, as will Labor-Meretz.

The right-wing bloc will have five representatives from Likud, one from Yamina, and one each from Shas and United Torah Judaism. Several of the parties have yet to announce which lawmakers will represent them in the committee.

The center-left bloc and Yisrael Beiteinu, which currently hold a slim majority of 61 lawmakers, suggested that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee be chaired by Gabi Ashkenazi of Kahol Lavan, and the special committee to combat the coronavirus epidemic be chaired by Ofer Shelah, also of Kahol Lavan.

A debate broke out between the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties and Yisrael Beiteinu, following Avigdor Lieberman’s demand to appoint his party’s representative, Oded Forer, as head of the Finance Committee, in place of the veteran lawmaker Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism.

The Joint List clarified that they have agreed to support the establishment of the Arrangements Committee, and after a solution is found to the disagreement, they will lend their support to the establishment of the rest of the committees.

The vote marks a landmark for the Knesset, which has been paralyzed in the face of a political stalemate and the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has been pushing back on efforts to convene the Israeli parliament, which delayed both the establishment of the oversight committees, as well as a vote to replace him as speaker.

The High Court has told Edelstein to allow a vote on a new Knesset speaker by Wednesday, following several petitions filed by Gantz's party and political groups, and to allow a session on the matter by 5:00 P.M. on Monday. Edelstein asked the court for an extension until 9:00 P.M., which was granted.

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