Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon were still far from reaching a compromise on broadcasting policy that would stave off Netanyahu’s threat to go to the polls if his demands were not met, Channel 2 News reported Monday evening.
This contradicted reports in the Hebrew media earlier in the day indicating that the two sides were drawing closer to a solution that would see the veteran Israel Broadcasting Authority merging with the already functioning, but not yet broadcasting, corporation created to replace the IBA and due to go on the air on April 30.
On Saturday, after months of wrangling over whether or not to close the IBA and replace it with the new body — known in Hebrew as Kan — Netanyahu announced his final decision to oppose the latter and threatened to call snap elections over the issue.
Kahlon (Kulanu) has dug his heels in against nixing the new corporation, saying such a move would waste massive funds.
Israeli media reported Monday that the corporation’s decision to hire veteran news anchor Geula Even has stiffened Netanyahu’s resolve to oppose the body even more.
Even is married to Gideon Sa’ar, a former interior and education minister and a rising star in the Likud Party until he resigned from political life in 2014.
Sa’ar is widely expected to return to the Knesset at some point, possibly to compete against Netanyahu to become prime minister.
Associates of Netanyahu and Kahlon were still exploring the idea of merging the two bodies into one, with the main point of contention being the degree of political independence that would be granted to the new institution, Channel 2 News reported.
A senior coalition source with knowledge of the negotiations told The Times of Israel that the prime minister had not yet agreed to any compromise with the finance minister. “There is no agreement yet,” he said, “but I expect they will reach some deal that allows both sides to save face soon.”
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev told the Knesset TV Channel on Monday, “The [new] corporation will not rise, and if it does, it will be in combination with the IBA.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) told Army Radio that any compromise that would enable the prime minister to get his own way would be “shady.”
Ministers predicted that no decisions would be reached until Netanyahu’s return from a state visit to China on Thursday.
Netanyahu backed the 2014 legislation that established the new corporation, but said in recent weeks that the new body was a “mistake.” His key complaint was the law’s guarantee of greater editorial independence for the new agency.