The chances of Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev’s ‘cultural loyalty bill’ passing on Monday became significantly slimmer, after two coalition lawmakers said they cannot support the bill.
“The cultural loyalty bill puts politics deep into culture, and in its current format, can harm [culture],” Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria wrote on twitter on Sunday. “After the first reading, my efforts to bring a significant change to the bill did not succeed, and it still gives too much power to the culture minister.
“Therefore, I call on the coalition to remove the bill from the agenda,” Azaria said.
Likud MK Bennie Begin notified coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) that he will not vote for the bill, either.
Azaria and Begin’s rebellion brings the 61-seat coalition to another test of its stability, following a shaky first week after Avigdor Liberman resigned from the Defense Ministry and pulled his Yisrael Beytenu party from the coalition.
The cultural loyalty bill, which was set to be put to a final vote on Monday, allows the Culture Ministry to deny funding to cultural works
that disrespect state symbols, consider Independence Day to be a day of mourning, or incite to violence or terrorism, among other things. While the bill does not ban these works, it removes state funding from them; Regev has defended it by saying there is a right to freedom of expression, but not a right to be funded. However, many cultural institutions in Israel rely upon state funding, and artists and intellectuals have criticized the bill as a form of censorship.
In legislative committee meetings, the bill was tweaked due to Kulanu’s efforts. The changes limited Regev’s authority, such that it only applies to cultural works and not institutions, and she will not have an automatic majority on the committee that evaluates the decisions.
Yisrael Beytenu officials told Regev after the party’s resignation from the coalition that they would continue to back the bill. However, they backed down from their support after the coalition froze progress on Yisrael Beytenu’s bill to make it easier for military courts to give terrorists the death penalty, leaving the coalition with a one-seat majority.
Without Begin and Azaria’s support, the coalition may not have a majority in favor of the legislation, and the result would depend on MKs’ attendance on each side, and whether Liberman would have his party abstain rather than oppose the bill.
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