IBA building in Romema.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to decide next month which Likud minister will be given responsibility for the Israel Broadcasting Authority in place of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, who gave up the job last week.
The IBA, which includes Channel 1 TV, Reshet Bet radio and the IBA English News, is in the midst of a painful and controversial reform that is intended to save Israeli public broadcasting from closing down. Edelstein gave up responsibility for the IBA after his candidate to run the authority, businessman Amnon Dick, was rejected three times.
Likud sources said the main candidates for the post are Ministers-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled and Michael Eitan. Peled is a natural choice, because he was head of the Second Television Authority when Channel 2 was founded and headed a government committee on communications. Eitan is a former science minister and has a reputation as a very hard worker.
The Prime Minister’s Office has not made an overture to either candidate and neither man has lobbied for the position yet, but sources close to both made clear that they would take the job if offered.
A source close to Netanyahu said the process of choosing a candidate has not yet begun but that both Peled and Eitan were “reasonable options.”
The source said that while Eitan has a reputation for political independence, Netanyahu was “very close to Peled and trusts him.”
Likud sources ruled out the possibility that the prime minister would save the portfolio for a new minister from Kadima who would join the coalition in a “rebellion” led by MK Shaul Mofaz. They said Netanyahu had made clear that he wanted the IBA “close to home.”
Dick was rejected despite his success in reforming Bezeq (where he was CEO), because he was seen as “too apolitical” or “close to Kadima.”
Meanwhile, the responsibility for the IBA is in the hands of Netanyahu and Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eyal Gabai.
Kadima MKs said that Netanyahu should not be allowed to hold onto the portfolio. Knesset State Control Committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) will hold a hearing on the matter on Monday.
“The IBA has lost the remnants of its independence now that it is under the prime minister’s direct control,” said Kadima MK Nachman Shai, a former IBA chairman, editor and military correspondent. “There must be a barrier, especially when the IBA is in the worst state ever.
“It’s unhealthy for a democracy to have a prime minister run a private body like the IBA,” Shai said.
Nevertheless, Labor rebel MK Eitan Cabel, who is normally among Netanyahu’s fiercest critics, defended him, saying that the IBA needed someone as strong as the prime minister to make needed reforms.
“Unless the prime minister pushes the Finance Ministry on the IBA’s
behalf, it will close and we won’t have public broadcasting in Israel,”
said Cabel, who was formerly the minister in charge of the IBA.
“As long as he doesn’t make it political, he can help the IBA. As prime
minister, he can make decisions financially that your average minister
cannot. He can get the IBA the budget it needs to save it from dying.”