Netanyahu won’t punish backers of new broadcasting entity, associates say

Netanyahu will convene the heads of the six parties in his coalition to discuss a bill that would close down the IBC, which is set to replace the current Israel Broadcasting Authority.

IBA logo (photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)
IBA logo
(photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not seek revenge against the heads of parties in his coalition who oppose his initiative to halt the formation of the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation, sources close to Netanyahu said Saturday night.
Netanyahu will convene the heads of the six parties in his coalition Sunday to discuss coalition chairman David Bitan’s bill that would close down the IBC, which is set to replace the current Israel Broadcasting Authority. He intends to push them to support the bill.
But Netanyahu’s associates said he would not try to get back at Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Shas chairman Arye Deri or Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon for opposing the legislation. Due to the support of most of Likud and all of Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism, a majority of the coalition supports the bill, but a vote will not take place in the meeting of party leaders.
Hours after that meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will convene the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which will vote on Bayit Yehudi faction head Shuli Moalem-Refaeli’s proposal to legalize unauthorized outposts, including Amona.
Netanyahu intends to instruct his representative on the committee, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Sunday on whether to veto the bill. Levin told supporters of the bill, who were protesting outside of his home Saturday night, that there would not be a veto, but what happens in the meeting of party heads could have an impact on that decision.
Kahlon denied reports that Netanyahu has sought a deal with him in which he would give up his support for maintaining the IBC in return for Netanyahu backing the Kulanu leader’s initiative to tax owners of at least three apartments.
“There is no such deal, nor will there be,” Kahlon told Yediot Aharonot. “There is no connection between the housing crisis and the IBC, and anyone who tries to connect them is a charlatan.”
A Panels Research poll broadcast Saturday on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program found that 55.9% of Israelis want the IBC to be formed; 21.7% want the IBA to continue; and 22.4% do not know.
More than 90% of Israelis said it was important to them that Israel have a free press that is independent of political influences.
Just 7.4% said it was not important to them and 2.3% did not know.
When asked whether the initiative to prevent the IBC from being formed was political or economic, 61.2% said the maneuver was intended for political reasons, 16.5% said the effort is intended to save taxpayer money and 22.3% said they did not know.
The poll of 503 respondents, representing a statistical sample of the Israeli population, was taken Thursday and Friday and has a margin of error of +-4.5%.
A pro-IBC demonstration of producers of content for television was held Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin square. Organizers of the protest pointed out that the IBC is required to use much more Israeli- produced content than the IBA.
The Israel Democracy Institute will host a rally against closing the IBC Sunday morning that will be addressed by MKs and the head of the Press Council, former Supreme Court judge Dalia Dorner. IDI president Yohanan Plesner called Bitan’s bill absurd.
“The inability of political leaders to give up their power over public broadcasting will cause grave harm to our democratic foundations,” Plesner said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog released a statement Saturday saying public broadcasting must continue to belong to the citizens of Israel. He vowed that his Zionist Union faction would do everything possible to fight for an independent press.
“Bibi [Netanyahu] should end his obsession with destroying the free press in Israel,” Herzog said. “A free press that is not connected to politicians must be at the top of the priorities of our decision makers who are meeting Sunday. The heads of the coalition must stop the prime minister from closing the IBC and harming democracy.”