Battle Over Knesset Appointment Strains Coalition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid (L) conferring with MK Ofer Shelah in the Knesset plenum. (FLASH90)
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid (L) conferring with MK Ofer Shelah in the Knesset plenum. (FLASH90)

Edelstein to Head Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

A running battle over the chairmanship of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been putting strain on the government coalition, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

The position, recently vacated by Avigdor Lieberman who returned to the Foreign Ministry, will not initially go to Yesh Atid’s MK Ofer Shelah, despite relentless pressure for his candidacy from his party boss Yair Lapid.

Instead, it appeared on Wednesday night that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud-Beiteinu) will head the prestigious committee.

“The situation of the past weeks is intolerable,” Edelstein said of the month-long vacancy. “I’m not lacking in work; I wasn’t looking for a job. This isn’t a real solution, but I had to take the initiative,” Edelstein explained.

Shelah will be consigned to being No. 2 in a rotation, taking the chairmanship only in a year and a half from now. In the volatile world of Israeli politics, that could mean never.

A coalition source said that anger at Lapid is growing over his attempts to bully coalition partners.

“It is unacceptable that Yesh Atid is trying to boss us around in such a way. There is a wild frenzy,” said the source. “The price is that Shelah will get the committee, but only in a year and a half after the rotation — not that anyone knows what will happen until then anyway.”

The comments come against a backdrop of coalition squabbling over the last 24 hours.

“First Lapid hinted that there is a need for change in the coalition, then he makes an ultimatum regarding Shelah’s appointment, then criticizes the prime minister’s [proposed] new residence — even though it is clear that the current prime minister will not live there.

“I think we are all just getting tired of this. There is no doubt that we are in a critical and decisive stage regarding the future and face of this coalition — including whether it will survive or not.”

In other coalition news, the Likud court decided Wednesday night to prevent the Likud Central Committee from voting on a proposal to end the partnership with Yisrael Beiteinu. The party is sharply divided over the issue, and the meeting was marred by booing and heckling.