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Knesset establishes new committees to improve coalition-opposition power balance

Opposition has attempted to block formation of key parliamentary panels in effort to prevent debates on state budget, which must pass by November if government is to survive

Members of the Knesset House Committee vote to establish a swath of new parliamentary committees, July 25, 2021. (Knesset)
Members of the Knesset House Committee vote to establish a swath of new parliamentary committees, July 25, 2021. (Knesset)

The Knesset House Committee on Sunday approved the establishment of four new permanent committees, as coalition whip Idit Silman of the Yamina party notified Likud’s faction chair that she would proceed with the process even without the opposition’s agreement.

The new committees were created amid a disagreement between the government and the opposition over the balance of power on the key Knesset panels. Opposition parties had complained they were not chairing any of the key Knesset committees.

According to the approved proposal, the responsibilities of the Interior and Environmental Protection Committee will be divided into three separate committees: the Committee of the Interior and Environmental Protection; the Committee of Internal Security; and the Committee on Special National Infrastructure Initiatives and Jewish Religious Services.

Another new committee established Sunday, the Health Committee, is a breakaway committee of the Labor, Health and Welfare Committee. It will be headed by Silman.

Additionally, five special committees were established Sunday. The Special Committee on the Rights of the Child will be headed by Michal Shir (Yesh Atid); the Special Committee for Foreign Workers by Ibtisam Mara’ana (Labor); the Special Committee of Drug and Alcohol Addiction by Ram Shefa (Labor); Committee of Public Inquiries by Yael Ron Ben-Moshe (Blue and White); and the Special Committee for the Supervision of the Fund for Israeli Citizens by Mossi Raz (Meretz).

Silman also said two more special committees were to be established and would be headed by opposition lawmakers.

Last week, the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee approved the makeup of the parliament’s 11 already existing permanent committees.

Coalition whip Idit Silman of the Yamina party at the Knesset House Committee, July 25, 2021. (Knesset)

In a letter to Likud faction chair Yariv Levin on Friday, Silman said the opposition was offered the chairmanship of four permanent committees and two special committees, as well as five deputy chair positions in the various committees.

The only remaining argument between the sides, she said, was the demand of the opposition for an equal number of members between the sides on the Economics Committee, and reducing the advantage the coalition has over the opposition in the Finance Committee from two lawmakers to one.

Silman told Levin that the opposition’s last demands could not be met, and if it didn’t accept the current proposal, the government would move on and establish the committees regardless.

Levin in response said that Silman had “a lot of nerve” sending such a letter.

Then-Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“First, they offer an extremely unfair offer, then moderate the unfairness a bit and present it as a compromise,” Levin said.

“It is impossible to accept a situation in which Likud receives minimal representation in the central [Knesset] positions, while completely distorting the election results and the composition of the Knesset, only because the coalition is comfortable producing an artificial majority for itself, especially in preparation for the budget,” he added.

The opposition has attempted to block the formation of the Knesset committees at every opportunity, in what is seen to be an effort to prevent debates on the state budget, which the government, sworn in in June, has until early November to pass.

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