Knesset Plenum Okays New Ministerial Appointments

Finance Committee votes to remove Litzman as panel chair, appoints MK Misezhnikov as new chairman.

The Knesset plenum passed a round of ministerial appointments on Wednesday, naming MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu) tourism minister and Labor MKs Yitzhak Herzog and Raleb Majadaleh as welfare minister and science, culture and sports minister respectively.

The three changes passed in a sweeping majority of 50 votes to 19.

The changes come after the Knesset Finance Committee's narrow vote Wednesday morning in favor of removing United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman as the committee's chair, a position which he has held for most of the past four years.

The motion was passed by 10 votes to 9. The two Shas MKs on the committee voted along with the opposition against removing Litzman, despite the fact that Shas is a member of the coalition.

The committee also approved the appointment of Yisrael Beteinu MK Stas Misezhnikov as Litzman's replacement. The position was promised to Yisrael Beitenu as part of the coalition agreement with the party, much to the dismay of some Labor officials.

Three coalition MKs on the committee were replaced in order to ensure a majority to oust Litzman. Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) was replaced by Danny Yatom, and Orit Noked (Labor) was replaced by Colette Avital, and Kadima MK David Tal was replaced by Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki.

Kadima MK Eli Aflalo voted to remove Litzman from office, despite the fact that he said it was difficult for him to support transferring the position to Yisrael Beiteinu.

While Litzman was removed by the slimmest of margins, the committee voted overwhelmingly to appoint Misezhnikov as its new chairman. 15 committee members voted in favor of the Yisrael Beiteinu MK, while three voted against and one abstained.

Kadima MK Ze'ev Elkin said claims by Misezhnikov's opponents that he is too young and inexperienced to head the Finance Committee are based on the Russian immigrant's ethnic origin.

Elkin, himself a Russian immigrant, made the comments during Wednesday morning's committee hearing. Several of the committee's members, including the outgoing chair Litzman, asked Elkin to retract the accusations, although he refused to do so.

All of the committee members praised Litzman prior to the vote.

Litzman said meanwhile that a "government that has no mercy for the poor and takes care of the rich has no right to exist."

"I call on the government, regardless of the issue of joining the coalition or not, to give the children back their bread," he continued. "It is no secret that I offered to resign if the government agreed to transfer NIS 400 million to the child allowances. The government refused and in the end will be forced to pay a heavier price."