House C'tee Recommends That Litzman Be Ousted as Finance C'tee Chair

It was close, though, 13:12. Litzman: Knesset ousts only people held in esteem, not ones with criminal records

The Knesset House Committee today recommended to the Knesset Finance Committee that it oust its chairman, Yakov Litzman, and appointment Stas Misezhnikov of Yisrael Beiteinu in his stead.

Litzman, a religious parliamentarian, however enjoys wide support and dryly commented that he was gratified at how everybody sings his praises: "It shows that the Knesset ousts only people who are held in esteem, not the ones with criminal records or Knesset members under police investigation," he said.

It was a narrow victory for supporters of Yisrael Beiteinu. Thirteen Knesset members supported the motion, including the members of the coalition parties Kadima, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Gil-Pensioners Party.

Litzman's 12 supporters who voted against his ouster included Knesset members from Likud, Shas, the National Religious Party, United Torah Judaism, Meretz, Hadash, and the Arab parties.

Shelly Yachimovich of Labor, who opposed Litzman's ouster, on the grounds that he was doing an excellent responsible job, was replaced on the House Committee by Danny Yatom.

Getting rid of Litzman and appointing the unknown newcomer Misezhnikov in his stead now requires the permission of the Knesset Finance Committee itself.

Litzman stated that he would be convening the committee soon, to discuss his ouster. Probably the discussion will take place next week.

He also noted that no progress had been achieved on negotiations with Kadima about increasing child allowances for big families, which is United Torah Judaism's condition for joining the coalition.

"United Torah Judaism went to the elections to promote the demand that child allowances be increased. Seven hundred and sixty thousand children in Israel live below the poverty line," Litzman said. "If people are willing to just accept that, it's a crime. We want to increase child allowances, and anybody helping to hurt the poor and weak will get his just deserts from voters. The reason for my ouster is my demand that the poor be helped."

Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki of Kadima commented that the job of chairing the Knesset Finance Committee had been given to Litzman only as a temporary measure: he's in opposition and it's a position that belongs to the coalition. "There is no need to dramatize this,"  Yitzhaki said.

He declined to answer a question from Zahava Gal-On as to whether a deal had been reached between the coalition and the Pensioners Party, so it would rescind its opposition to deposing Litzman.

Nissim Zeev of Shas, another religious party, claims that the only reason UTJ hasn't joined the coalition is its internal schisms.