The vital Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held its first meeting in months Thursday after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein temporarily took over the chairmanship of the panel, which was left empty due to a longstanding coalition dispute over who would fill the powerful post.
“I regret the overlong delay in the regular activities of committee, but better late than never,” Edelstein said at the start of the meeting. “I hope we will resolve the issue of a permanent chairperson for the committee.”
The committee has been leaderless and unable to meet since Avigdor Liberman left the post to resume his position as foreign minister, and an internal spat has kept the coalition from appointing anyone new.
Edelstein called on the Likud-Beytenu and Yesh Atid factions to settle their differences and find select an MK to head the panel, which, among other things, oversees the defense budget and tackles highly sensitive security and military issues.
While Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wish to see MK Tzachi Hanegbi helm the FADC again (he was the committee’s chairman between 2006 and 2010), Finance Minister Yair Lapid and the Yesh Atid party have been demanding that Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah be appointed.
Thursday’s meeting was made possible when the Knesset earlier this week approved Edelstein to take over as temporary chairman of the panel.
Hanegbi is considered a close confidant of Netanyahu on nuclear and strategic issues, and has publicly backed the prime minister’s policies on Iran’s developing nuclear program. Meanwhile Shelah, a former journalist and IDF officer who has written extensively about defense and military strategy, is considered a dove when it comes to security and the peace process.
Lapid has refused to give up on Shelah’s nomination, despite the prime minister’s continued objection.