MKs Gafni, Gallant appointed to key committee posts as Knesset returns to work

UTJ’s Gafni reassumes his longtime leadership of the Finance Committee, and Likud’s Gallant takes on Foreign Affairs and Defense, while waiting to see if Defense job available

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) lawmaker Moshe Gafni arrives for coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem, on November 9, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) lawmaker Moshe Gafni arrives for coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem, on November 9, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Fulfilling a coalition demand, United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni was named chair of Knesset’s temporary Finance Committee on Monday.

Likud MK Yoav Gallant, a former senior IDF general, was appointed as the head of the Knesset’s temporary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday as well. Gallant is a contender for the defense ministry, which if it comes through, means he will be replaced as committee chair.

The temporary Finance Committee and temporary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, along with the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, are the only impermanent panels required by law. Once the Arrangements Committee finishes its work setting up Knesset committees, it will dissolve itself and the rest of the committees will be finalized.

Gafni was a long-time chair of the Finance Committee, but was ousted in 2021, when his party moved into the opposition. Putting Gafni forward, Arrangements Committee chair Likud MK Yoav Kisch said that he had previously worked under Gafni and that “he does excellent work.”

Gafni took over for former MK Alex Kushnir, who was edged out of the Knesset in the November 1 elections. Kushnir is a member of Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which has worked to encourage ultra-Orthodox Israelis to join the workforce by cutting some of the subsidies they previously enjoyed.

Shortly after his fresh appointment, Gafni said that he plans to convene the committee to discuss recent market moves affecting the cost of living.

Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman (L) and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on December 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Bank of Israel announced its intention to raise the interest rate from October’s 2.75 percent, with its decision made shortly after Gafni’s remarks on Monday. The move was intended to counter inflation, which sits at 5.1% over the past year, far over the 1-3% target set by the central bank.

“I heard that the governor of the Bank of Israel intends to raise the interest rate in the economy and the meaning is that the mortgage holders will pay more money. I intend to hold an extensive discussion on the matter as soon as possible,” said Gafni, moments after being confirmed to return to the role.

Gafni also added that he wants to hold discussions on climbing prices connected to supervised dairy products, as well as “a large number of transfers and surpluses that came together on the committee’s table.”

“There will be no finance minister telling me not to hold discussions on the critical social issues that belong to everyone,” said Gafni, in a barb thrown at Liberman. Under his former leadership, Gafni says, he ran the Finance Committee as a shared effort among Knesset factions.

“Everyone knew that here in the committee, it is a different place from other places. Here, opposition and coalition work together, and do only what is good for the citizens of the State of Israel,” he said.

Gallant may soon shift to defense minister, with fresh reports that Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich might give up his demands for the post in exchange for the Finance Ministry.

Upon his Monday confirmation to the committee chairmanship, Gallant said that Israel’s security transcends political division and is “a common mission for all of us.”

Then-education minister Yoav Gallant at a passing the baton ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“The threats to Israel’s security, and the efforts to strengthen the security and situation of the State of Israel, do not cease for a moment and do not depend on the current political reality. The security and strategic challenges are complex, the missions are numerous, and the objectives and fronts are varied. Providing security and instilling a sense of security is the state’s duty to all its citizens, without exception,” Gallant continued.

Gallant replaced Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak, a former top Mossad official who led the committee since 2021.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is considered one of the Knesset’s most important committees, responsible for overseeing the military, defense budgets, and other critical areas of national security.

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