Likud is set to offer United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas one of four slots as deputy Knesset speaker, in an attempt to obtain his support for a bill calling for direct election of the prime minister. The chairman of the Knesset Arrangements Committee, Likud’s Miki Zohar, is expected to call a committee meeting on Monday and bring the selection of the deputies to a vote.
The Arrangements Committee, which decides on the composition of parliamentary panels and sets the Knesset’s agenda as long as a caretaker government is in place, was established last week. The proposal on the committee’s composition by the bloc opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which passed by a narrow margin, gives it an advantage over the parties that support the prime minister. Because of this, Zohar has prevented the committee from voting on its agenda.
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Now, sources in the Knesset say, Zohar wants to hold the vote, because the deputy speakers and temporary Knesset committees must be approved before legislation calling for direct elections of the prime minister, a bill proposed last week by Shas, can be advanced.
According to the proposal Zohar is set to raise, besides Abbas, one deputy speaker will be from Likud and the other two from the anti-Netanyahu bloc. Thus, no bloc will have a clear majority among the deputy speakers. If Abbas supports the deal, Yamina will be the deciding vote: the anti-Netanyahu bloc opposes the appointment of Abbas out of concern that he is coordinating his moves with the prime minister. Sources in the Knesset say that Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett will ask to use his possible support for the bill to improve his standing in coalition negotiations with the anti-Netanyahu bloc, if Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government runs out.
Zohar proposes that a similar ratio be preserved in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Finance Committee: Each committee will have eight members from the bloc for change, seven from the bloc supporting Netanyahu and one member for Yamina and the United Arab list. Thus, each bloc can try to obtain a majority in its proposals. The chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will be Orna Barbivai of Yesh Atid, the former head of the IDF Manpower Directorate. The Finance Committee will be headed by Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, who chaired it in the previous Knesset.
Shortly before last week’s vote on the makeup of the Arrangement’s Committee, Yamina reached an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and voted in favor of the Likud’s proposal. However, the proposal failed to pass when the United Arab List voted against it in a surprise move. Abbas said after the vote that “only those who accept our demands will win our support.”
The first meeting of the committee, held last week, dispersed without reaching any agreements. Zohar refused to bring a proposal by the anti-Netanyahu to appoint deputy Knesset speakers, which included a larger number of deputies from their parties, to a vote.