Lawmaker From Gantz's Party to Head Main Knesset Committee, Panels Begin Work

Kahol Lavan's Avi Nissenkorn will head the Arrangements Committee, which discussed formation of four temporary panels, one of which will oversee management of the coronavirus crisis

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Kahol lavan leader Benny Gantz speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 17, 2020.
Kahol lavan leader Benny Gantz speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 17, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A lawmaker from Benny Gantz's party was appointed as the chairman of a crucial Knesset committee and the Knesset approved two additional committees late Monday night, allowing the parliament to begin its work following Israel's March 2 election.

Kahol Lavan lawmaker Avi Nissenkorn will head the Arrangements Committee – which governs all parliamentary work between an election and the formation of a new government and whose establishment was approved by the Knesset overnight Monday. That committee decided on the composition of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Finance Committee.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 70Credit: Haaretz

The Finance Committee will convene at 12:30 P.M. on Tuesday to discuss an economic safety net from the state to help combat economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

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.

After convening, the Arrangements Committee decided that Kahol Lavan co-leader Gabi Ashkenazi will head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, while Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker Oded Forer will chair the Finance Committee, replacing Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism.

In addition, the committee discussed the establishment of four more temporary panels – A special committee to manage the coronavirus crisis to be headed by Kahol Lavan lawmaker Ofer Shelah, a committee responsible to curb crime and violence in the Arab society headed by a member of the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties, a committee to prepare the education system for the coming school year led by left-wing Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz and a committee dealing with labor and welfare issues, also headed by a Joint List lawmaker. The formation of these committees is dependent on the final approval of the Knesset.

The four temporary committees were approved by the Knesset later on Tuesday.

In his speech to the Knesset, Gantz criticized Netanyahu's call to forbid members of the Joint List from heading Knesset committees. "We won't attack the minority and its important voice," Gantz said. "The proper functioning of democracy does not limit the government's actions, rather it gives them validity. As long as these difficult processes are handled properly, we will vote in their favor and give our full support, even if it hurts us politically."

Gantz's speech was interrupted by jeers from Culture Minister Miri Regev of Likud, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein refused to remove her, saying there must always be a representative of the government in the Knesset plenum.

The right-wing bloc aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boycotted the vote to establish the Arrangements committee, excluding 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 gives the center-left bloc a one seat advantage with 9 members, relative to the right-wing bloc’s eight members.

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

Alongside Nissenkorn, four additional representatives from Kahol Lavan are serving on the committee: Karin Elharrar, Izhar Shay, Pnina Tamano-Shata, and Asaf Zamir. The Joint List has two representatives in the committee, Yisrael Beiteinu has one, as does Labor-Meretz.

The right-wing bloc has 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.

On Monday, Israel's High Court of Justice ruled that Edelstein must convene the parliament by Wednesday to hold a vote on electing a new speaker after he refused to heed a request to do so.

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