(photo credit: REUTERS)
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev tried to appeal to Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s political sensibilities in an attempt to salvage her “cultural loyalty bill” after two coalition lawmakers said they cannot support it.
“I call on Liberman: Don’t vote together with [Joint List MK] Ahmed Tibi against the bill,” Regev said on the way into Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “The nationalist public will not forgive you for it.”
Regev’s bill was scheduled to go to a vote on Monday,
and she expressed confidence that it would still happen, even though the chances of it becoming law seemed slim.
The 61-seat coalition would likely need Yisrael Beytenu’s support for the legislation to pass after Likud MK Bennie Begin and Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria both said on Sunday that they would not vote in favor of the bill. Their rebellion brings the 61-seat coalition to another test of its stability, following a shaky first week after 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 the bill 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.
Regev, in her call to Liberman, said she knows that voting down the bill would be “a prize for terrorism.”
“This is not a matter of Left and Right. I call on you and believe that at the end of the day you will vote in favor of the cultural loyalty bill because it is right and just and the time has come for it to be part of Israel’s law books,” she added.
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.
The death penalty bill is on the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee agenda for Tuesday, with a note that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation needs to determine the coalition’s position on the matter.
Azaria wrote on Twitter: “The cultural loyalty bill puts politics deep into culture, and in its current format can harm [culture]. 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.
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.
Begin notified coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) that he will not vote for the bill either.
“People used to say ‘Begin, Begin we love you,’” Regev said in response. “Now people will say, ‘Begin, Begin, what happened to you?’”
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.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Finance Ministry on Sunday to dissuade Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon from supporting the bill. Demonstrators held signs calling Kahlon Regev’s puppet and her dishrag, with some waving actual rags in the air.
Opposition MKs continued to sharply criticize the bill.
“Just say it already, the cultural loyalty bill is a bad bill,” said Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin. “Any law that conditions the distribution of resources on a declaration of loyalty is bad, but this is an especially bad bill. Take it off the Knesset’s agenda.”
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