The High Court of Justice on Thursday demanded that the state explain by May 1 why coalition disagreements had left one of the Knesset’s key committees, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, without a chairperson and without regular meetings for over six months.
The High Court took up the issue on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to meet an end-of-March deadline he had committed to for appointing a chair to the committee.
The chairmanship remains a subject of contention between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) since it was vacated by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in October. Each party leader has insisted on his own candidate – Yesh Atid advancing MK Ofer Shelah and Likud insisting on MK Tzachi Hanegbi, a former chair of the committee.
The lack of a chairman has effectively prevented the committee from meeting regularly and conducting oversight of the defense and foreign policy arms of the government.
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 insist the committee’s hampered state is causing real harm to the state’s ability to conduct its defense and foreign policies.
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.
Responding to a High Court appeal from a handful of opposition MKs, including Labor’s Isaac Herzog, Nachman Shai and Eitan Cabel, and the Movement for Quality Government, Netanyahu promised the High Court last month that he would appoint a chairman to the committee by the end of March.
In recent days, Netanyahu notified the court that he had failed to make the appointment due to “weighty diplomatic developments” that kept him busy.