High Court Prods Government on Knesset Appointment

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Netanyahu government has failed for over six months to appoint a chairman for the Knesset’s key Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and the High Court wants to know why — by May 1.

A coalition wrangle over who should fill the position has kept it vacant and unable to fulfill its responsibility for oversight of state security matters.

The Court intervened on Thursday after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed to meet an end-of-March deadline he had committed to for resolving the problem.

Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) have tussled over the coveted chairmanship since it was vacated by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in October. Each party leader has insisted on his own candidate — Yesh Atid insisting on MK Ofer Shelah and Likud pushing for MK Tzachi Hanegbi, a former chair of the committee.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein authorized special temporary meetings of the committee to enable it to approve the defense budget and other urgent measures, but governance advocates say lack of leadership has crippled the committee’s functioning.

In better days, the committee, whose meetings are secret, holds regular hearings with top foreign affairs and defense officials, approves the budgets of relevant ministries and oversees government policy.

In recent days, Netanyahu notified the court that he had missed the appointment deadline because of “weighty diplomatic developments.” Or, in other words, he was too busy.