In an unusual move, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud-Beytenu) will ask the Knesset on Wednesday to appoint him as temporary chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee following the rejection of every suggested candidate from Likud-Beytenu and Yesh Atid.
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been without a chairperson for a month, ever since Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman stepped down after being reinstated as foreign minister. The absence of a chairperson has effectively left the committee -- considered the most important in the Knesset -- as well as its various subcommittees, paralyzed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have been at odds over the identity of Lieberman's replacement, as Netanyahu sought to name MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) to the position, while Lapid wanted to see Yesh Atid faction chairman MK Ofer Shelah assume the role.
In the absence of a decision, Edelstein tried to find a solution. "It is an intolerable situation, from a parliamentary perspective, that this important committee is not functioning," he said. Edelstein held meetings with Netanyahu, Lapid, Hanegbi and Shelah, suggesting several candidates to temporarily fill the position. Among the suggestions were former Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud-Beytenu), former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and former minister MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnuah), but no consensus was reached.
Meanwhile, Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu) expressed outrage at Yesh Atid, which plans to present for approval in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday a preliminary reading of MK Adi Kol's bill to allow tax breaks for same-sex couples, despite resistance from Habayit Hayehudi.
Levin said Tuesday evening that "Yesh Atid's irresponsible behavior will lead to the collapse of the coalition. Unfortunately, Yesh Atid wants to run everything, including the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."
As a countermeasure, Levin is expected to allow coalition members to vote on the Safeguarding Jerusalem Bill. The bill proposes a requirement for an 80 MK majority to approve negotiations over the capital.
Dozens of gay rights activists demonstrated in front of the Knesset on Tuesday asking for full equal rights. The protesters, wearing masks of Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, made a show of kissing in the snow and calling out the slogan, 'Homophobia begins in the Knesset corridors.'"
Also on Tuesday, Likud Executive Committee Chairman Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Danon decided not to vote on a split from Yisrael Beytenu, effectively adopting Netanyahu's stance on the issue. Instead of voting on the dissolution of the joint faction, the committee will vote on a proposal to no longer allow party mergers. The proposal can later be abolished with a majority vote in the Likud Central Committee. The Likud Executive Committee will also vote on a proposal to support the application of Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria.