JERUSALEM (Jul. 22)
Two up-and-comers on Labor’s list have been elected to head influential Knesset committees.
Ori Orr, a former general and new face in Israeli politics, was elected chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, while Avraham Burg, who came in third in Labor’s primary elections, was named head of the Education Committee.
Orr, whose last army job was as head of the northern command, was on Labor’s list for the first time this year.
He reportedly would have preferred a senior position in the defense establishment, but with the appointment of former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur as deputy defense minister, the space up at the top of the security hierarchy was becoming narrower and narrower.
In the past few years, Orr has served as director-general of the Jewish National Fund.
Orr replaced Likud Knesset member Eliahu Ben-Elissar, who is now housing minister. Opposite him at the committee’s table will be former commanders of his, Rafael Eitan and Ariel Sharon.
Asked what his credo would be once he assumed his job at this influential committee, Orr recalled one of the toughest battles he had experienced. As a division commander during the Yom Kippur War, he had received news of growing losses in his division, while the Syrians were making serious advances on the battle front.
“I asked myself at the time, how did it happen to us, and I am telling myself today: it is the duty of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to make sure that it will not happen again,” Orr said.
Burg, son of longtime National Relgious Party leader Yosef Burg, was also denied a post in one of the ministries. But at the Education Committee, he too promises changes: “On Sunday we shall begin writing the education book of the State of Israel — a master plan for the relocation of education in the country,” Burg said.
Burg, himself religious, won fame in the recent election campaign when he came out strongly for the separation of state and religion and for the drafting of yeshiva students.