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In further blow to Netanyahu, key panel set to form Knesset committees

Likud whip concedes Arrangement Committee will approve temporary committees and tap 4 deputy Knesset speakers, solidifying anti-Netanyahu parties’ control

Likud MK Miki Zohar at an Interior Affairs Committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Miki Zohar at an Interior Affairs Committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded Sunday that Knesset committees will be staffed based on a proposal submitted by the bloc of parties seeking to oust the premier.

Likud MK Miki Zohar, who chairs the Arrangements Committee that controls the legislative agenda in the new parliament until a government is formed, said in a statement that his panel would convene on Monday morning to vote on the “change bloc’s” proposal.

Zohar’s options were limited after a stinging defeat last week in which the Knesset voted against Likud’s proposal for the makeup of the Arrangements Committee and passed a counter-proposal from the anti-Netanyahu parties known as the “change bloc,” headed by Yesh Atid.

As a result, Zohar does not have the numbers in the panel he heads to automatically pass proposals preferred by the pro-Netanyahu bloc.

Last week, rather than allow for a vote on the change bloc’s proposal for the establishment of parliamentary committees and deputies to the Knesset speaker, Zohar simply adjourned the panel, sparking outcry from left-wing lawmakers.

But evidently recognizing that the pro-Netanyahu bloc does not have the votes to pass an alternative proposal, Zohar has agreed to bring the change bloc’s plan to a vote.

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, April 19, 2021. (Kan)

The proposal would see the appointment of four deputies to Knesset speaker Yariv Levin on Monday: three from the “change bloc” and just one from Likud.

The Arrangements Committee will also establish temporary parliamentary committees. Orna Barbivai, a member of the Yesh Atid party, will chair the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, while Moshe Gafni from the ultra-Orthodox right-wing United Torah Judaism will head the Finance Committee. In accordance with the law, 17 members will sit on each committee.

The Arrangements Committee, which in the face of ongoing political deadlock has become increasingly influential, has 33 MKs — 16 from the change bloc, 14 from the bloc led by Netanyahu, one for Islamist party Ra’am and two for the right-wing Yamina party, headed by Naftali Bennet.

Ra’am’s leader Mansour Abbas — whose vote was key in securing the change bloc’s victory — decided not to back Likud after learning of a last-minute agreement with the Yamina party that would give it an extra seat on the committee in return for its support for the proposal, according to multiple Hebrew media reports.

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