(photo credit: Bloomberg)
Israeli commuters and one American millionaire joined together in a collective sigh of relief Sunday when the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted against a bill that targeted US businessman Sheldon Adelson’s Yisrael Hayom free newspaper. Despite its defeat in the key committee, the bill is expected to be brought for a vote on the Knesset floor this Wednesday, where Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to enforce rules of coalition discipline to ensure its defeat.
Yisrael Hayom is the most widely distributed free newspaper in Israel and is believed to be either the first or second most widely read newspaper in the country. The newspaper, owned by Netanyahu confidante Adelson, is considered to be a strong fountain of support for the prime minister.
It is because of this popular opinion that the paper has become the
target of not one but three different bills that seek to knock it out
of circulation, restoring traditional one-two papers Yediot
to their previous
status. The bill voted upon Sunday was sponsored by MKs Marina Solodkin
(Kadima), Miri Regev (Likud) and David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and
would have curbed the paper’s distribution by outlawing the sale of a
service or product at a price below 50 percent of the price of its
manufacture or distribution.
Israel Beiteinu ministers Sofa Landver and Yitzhak Aharonovich
supported the bill in the vote, but if Netanyahu does hold MKs to
coalition discipline during the house vote, they will have to change
their tune Wednesday, as will Regev and Rotem, both coalition members.
Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman
abstained from voting, with Herzog explaining that he had a conflict of
interest, as his law firm had represented Adelson in the past.
An earlier bill targeting the newspaper sought to prohibit foreign
ownership of any Hebrew-language newspaper in Israel. That bill has
since been scrapped.