High Court tells coalition to agree on ‘more balanced’ Knesset committee makeup

The High Court of Justice on Thursday instructed the coalition to better balance the composition of Knesset committees, following a petition from some Likud lawmakers claiming opposition factions were not represented proportionally.

“The current composition of Knesset committees is problematic,” the judges wrote in their decision after more than two weeks of deliberations.

They said action must be taken to change the composition of the committees in a way that will achieve better balance and is agreed upon the sides, and that better reflects “the relative strength” of the Knesset factions.

The ruling came after the court discussed the petition earlier this month and delayed its decision by two weeks to give the coalition and opposition more time to sort out their differences via negotiations.

Last month, the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee approved the makeup of the parliament’s 11 permanent committees without the opposition’s agreement. A week later, the Knesset House Committee approved the establishment of four new permanent committees. Opposition parties had complained they were not chairing any of the key Knesset committees.

The petition was filed by Likud MKs David Bitan, Miri Regev, Keti Shitrit and Fateen Mulla along with Shas lawmakers Moshe Arbel and Michael Malchieli.

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

In a letter to Likud faction chair Yariv Levin last month, coalition whip Idit Silman of the Yamina party said the opposition had been 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 opposition’s  demand that the sides have an equal number of members 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.

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

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

“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.

Source Link: https://www.timesofisrael.com/high-court-tells-coalition-to-agree-on-more-balanced-knesset-committee-makeup/

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