Thursday, November 20, 2014

Political controversies

Two political controversies are roiling the Israeli Knesset these days, they are the definition of Israel as a Jewish State and the Yisrael Hayom free newspaper.  Both issues have been fiercely debated and may cause the breakup of PM Netanyahu's Government Coalition.
As part of the Coalition Agreement, the Bayit Yehudi Party led by Naftali Bennett insisted that the status of the State of Israel being a Jewish State should be enshrined in law.  Such a bill was written and submitted, but the Justice Minster Tzipi Livni, who is against this proposition, diverted the bill and had it delayed.  Bennett complained about this political maneuver to PM Netanyahu and threatened to leave the Coalition if it is not reinstated, thus possibly causing the collapse of the Netanyahu Government.
At the same time, another bill before the Knesset, this time introduced by the Labor leader Eitan Cable, would outlaw the distribution of free newspapers in Israel.  This came about because the American billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, has been financing the publication and free distribution of a newspaper called Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today), which supports the Netanyahu Government, is pro-Likud nd is the most popular newspaper in Israel.  The Labor Opposition regard this as unfair competition and want to make it mandatory that newspapers should be paid for.  Yet, they also supported free pro-Labor papers in the past, that have all gone out of business.  Many regard this political maneuver as anti-democratic and hypocritical, but every party that is a member of the Coalition except Likud has supported this bill.  
So a party on the right and patries on the left have both threatened to bring down the Netanyahu Coalition Government. In fact, the far left Meretz party leader introduced a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call for new elections.  But, this is a futile maneuver, since with the current Palestinian violence in Jerusalem and the recent Gaza war, there is little appetite for left-wing approaches in Israel and both Meretz and Labor are expected to fare worse in the next elections.  Nevertheless, although the Coalition itself is under strain, it is likely that Netanyahu will manage to hold it together, because no one really wants to go to elections now and face the uncertainty of the public's choice. 


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