Ministers to vote on controversial 'Israel Hayom bill' banning free newspapers

The Israel Hayom bill is expected to be approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and could be a major destabilizing factor for the coalition.

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November 1, 2014 20:10
2 minute read.
Sheldon Adelson

Las Vegas gaming tycoon and Israel Hayom proprietor Sheldon Adelson. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Legislation that has been coined the ‘Israel Hayom bill’ will go to a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, pitting coalition parties against each other.

The bill in question, drafted by MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), but co-sponsored by MKs from Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, Hatnua and Yesh Atid – every coalition party apart from the Likud – states it seeks to bolster the print newspaper industry by banning free newspapers.

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The legislation defines a free daily newspaper as one that is given out without payment six days a week and applies only to the four newspapers with the highest circulation in Israel, whatever they may be at any given time.

The lowest-priced newspaper of the four cannot cost less than 70 percent of the second-lowest- priced paper, according to the bill.

As such, the bill would realistically only apply to Israel Hayom, the pro-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paper owned by his major supporter and donor Sheldon Adelson, who also contributes to Republican candidates’ campaigns in the US.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni spoke out strongly in favor of the bill Saturday night, not hiding that it is targeting one newspaper.

“My stance is clear. Israel Hayom is not a newspaper, it is election propaganda funded by someone very problematic with a worldview that goes against Israel’s interests,” Livni told Channel 2’s Meet the Press.

The Israel Hayom bill is expected to be approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and could be a major destabilizing factor for the coalition.

Cabel originally planned to bring the bill to the Knesset without a ministerial vote – which is an option rarely used by MKs – as legislation not authorized by ministers is generally not approved by the Knesset.

On Wednesday, however, after the bill had already been placed on the docket, Yesh Atid threatened to vote against the measure if he did not take the usual legislative steps – and Cabel acquiesced to their demands.

Yesh Atid asked coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) to give MKs freedom to vote according to their conscience, but the party also said it would vote against the coalition even if he did not do so. Still, the party’s lawmakers are divided in their opinion of the bill.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Yair Lapid plans to recuse himself from votes on the bill because of a conflict of interest – as his wife has a weekly column syndicated to Yediot Aharonot’s local newspapers and he had his own column there for nearly two decades.


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