Coalition Fails Once Again: Unable to Find Majority to Oust Litzman

The coalition ran into more troubles yesterday when it failed to garner a majority to replace the current chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, MK Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism (UTJ). The Knesset House Committee was scheduled to vote on his replacement by MK Stas Misezhnikov of Yisrael Beiteinu.

The bid to oust Litzman failed when the Pensioners Party refused to back the move, forcing the House Committee to remove from its Tuesday agenda a vote to replace Litzman. The committee adjourned soon thereafter without taking a vote on the matter.

The next discussion on Litzman's ouster is expected only next week, and the earliest the Finance Committee would vote on the matter is in two weeks' time.

The move also prevents the coalition from completing a round of ministerial appointments, including naming MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch of Yisrael Beiteinu as tourism minister and Yitzhak Herzog as welfare minister and Raleb Majadele of Labor as science, culture and sports minister. These moves, as well as Misezhnikov's appointment were part of the coalition deal which brought Yisrael Beiteinu into the government; and the ministerial appointments are scheduled only after Litzman's replacement.

The coalition now faces a lengthy procedure before it can extract Litzman from his sensitive position: The House Committee needs to issue a recommendation to the Finance Committee to replace Litzman, forcing him to bring the matter to a vote before the panel which he still chairs.

The two representatives of the Pensioners on the House Committee, Moshe Sharoni and Itshac Galantee, announced that they oppose Litzman's replacement. Sharoni said that until the coalition implements its agreements with his party, it does not see itself bound to vote for agreements made by the coalition with other parties.

Sharoni added that the conditions for the Pensioners support for Misezhnikov include a 10 percent reduction in drug prices, increasing old-age allowances to 20 percent of the average wage, and reducing management fees for pension funds.

The House Committee has 25 members, 16 from the coalition. In addition to the two Pensioners, the three Shas representatives also object to Litzman's ouster.

Also, considering the current makeup of the committee, objections by several coalition MKs must be smoothed over, including MKs Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) and MK David Tal (Kadima). MK Orit Noked (Labor) has already declared she will abstain from the vote.

Litzman expressed his dissatisfaction with the move to oust him, informing coalition chairman MK Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) that he would not resign voluntarily. The committee chairman told Yitzhaki he intends to ensure that "no ultra-Orthodox [voters] vote for Kadima in the next elections."

He said that while it was clear to him that in the end he would be replaced, he wold fight to the end since we was fighting for increasing child allowances - an issue he is unwilling to compromise on.

"I did not make political appointments and was not investigated by the police, and I am pleased that they are ousting me only over my stubbornness to raise child allowances," said Litzman.

Yitzhaki said over the weekend, "I've asked Litzman to step down voluntarily and in a dignified manner, but he decided against it, thereby spurring the process of dismissal." However, Yitzhaki is now abroad, and internal negotiations within the coalition over Litzman's ouster are expected only after Yitzhaki returns this weekend.

The spokeswoman for Yisrael Beiteinu said: "We hope that the coalition will keep to its agreements. The coalition needs to solve its problem with the Pensioners Party and bring Misezhnikov's appointment to a vote. We are not in a hurry."

Misezhnikov said that he was sure the coalition would find the required majority.