They Sang His Praises, and Tossed Litzman Out

A gov't that neglects the poor and pampers the rich has no right to exist, says ex-chairman of Finance Ctee

An era ends: Yakov Litzman has been removed as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.

As expected, a majority of the revamped committee voted to depose Litzman as chairman, and to replace him with Stas Misezhnikov.

The committee voted 10-9 on Wednesday to remove United Torah Judaism's Yakov Litzman as chairman. The two Shas MKs on the committee voted along with the opposition against removing Litzman, though Shas is a member of the coalition.

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.

Separately, the committee voted to appoint 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, to the dismay of some Labor officials.

Litzman had chaired the committee for four years and had plenty of support among its members. In fact, to assure his ouster, Labor had to replace Shelly Yachimovich with Danny Yatom, who would support the coalition position of replacing the experienced chairman with a member of Yisrael Beiteinu. Colette Avital replaced Orit Noked, who had vowed to abstain.

Kadima member David Tal, also a Litzman supporter, found himself replaced by coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki, who voted for Misezhnikov.

During the debate preceding the vote, Knesset member Zeev Elkin of Kadima claimed that the arguments against Misezhnikov, regarding his lack of experience and tender years, were actually based on his being a Russian immigrant. Elkin himself came to Israel from Russia.

Members of the committee, including Litzman, demanded that Elkin retract his words, but he refused.

While Litzman was removed by the slimmest of margins, the committee voted overwhelmingly to appoint Misezhnikov as its new chairman. Ultimately Misezhnikov received 15 votes, while only three Knesset members voted against and two abstained.

However, before throwing him out, every member of the Knesset Finance Committee sang Litzman's praises.

Litzman had firmly refused to resign for the convenience of the coalition, on the grounds that he had to assure more help for poor families, in the form of reinstating the former higher level of child support.

Nor did he go graciously: "A government that has no compassion for the poor and that takes care of the rich has no right to exist," he said. "This is a government with no luck. I am talking about poverty. I call on the government to return the crust of bread to the children. It is no secret that I agreed to resign, if NIS 400 million would be allocated to child allowances. The government refused and will, ultimately, pay a dear price."