Netanyahu Rival Gains Control of Key Parliamentary Committees
Israel’s centrist Blue and White political list and its allies have gained control of key parliamentary committees in a development that dramatically alters the balance of power in Jerusalem. The Israeli legislature, the Knesset, reopened on Monday following a controversial decision by the speaker – a member of caretaker Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party – to shutter the plenum for five days. Blue and White’s Center-Left bloc first voted 61-0 to activate the Arrangements Committee, which oversees parliamentary assignments. The committee moved to create and staff six interim committees that will operate until a government is formed. One will be tasked with overseeing the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. For now, all are set to be headed by lawmakers from Blue and White or its partners, including one that is being led by a member of the primarily Arab Joint List, after Netanyahu’s right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc boycotted Monday’s proceedings. “[By] trampling [on] traditions in the Knesset that have been around from the beginning, they gave themselves the chairmanship and a majority on every committee,” Israeli media quoted a Likud spokesman as saying on Tuesday. “The nationalist camp’s 58 [parliamentarians] will not participate or give a hand to this anti-democratic behavior.” For his part, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz accused the prime minister of “trying to silence the Knesset, something that has not been done in any other functioning democracy and must never be done in the State of Israel.” The development means that votes will likely be held to replace the Knesset speaker with a Blue and White legislator and begin processing four pieces of legislation that could effectively oust Netanyahu due to indictments against him in three separate criminal cases.