Livni Knocks Party Rival Over Post of Defense Panel Head

Nino Abesadze sworn in as MK as Hanegbi forfeits committee spot.

Journalist Nino Abesadze was sworn in as a Knesset member for the Kadima Party yesterday, taking the place of former MK Tzachi Hangegbi, who suspended himself from the Knesset last week following a court decision that his perjury conviction consists of moral turpitude.

Abesadze is seen as part of Kadima's left flank and in recent years worked for the Geneva Initiative.

"I served my state in the Russian-language media for 14 years," Abesadze said. "Of course I never dreamed that one fine day I would be able to serve my state from here, from the most important house of Israeli democracy."

While Hanegbi's shoes in the plenum have been filled, his highly-touted position as chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee remains up in the air.

Kadima is now demanding to head the Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee, which it was offered from the start, as chief opposition party.

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said yesterday that while there was no better candidate to chair the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee than former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, she prefers the Economic Affairs Committee.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on Sunday to appoint a chairman for the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee by next Monday. Rivlin said if no agreed candidate is found, he would appoint an acting one.

Kadima's faction met yesterday and decided to insist on the Economic Affairs Committee and forgo heading up the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"I support the faction members' will to be a fighting opposition," Livni said. "I want to make it clear, this is not a personal issue between myself and Shaul Mofaz. ... We're not dealing with committee heads now. But if we do decide on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, nobody is more worthy than Mofaz to head it. As for the Economics Committee - it is very significant for the opposition. It is a legislating committee and all the faction members stress the need that we insist on heading it."