Rebuffing PM, Kahlon says laid off IBA staff won’t be left high and dry
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Rebuffing PM, Kahlon says laid off IBA staff won’t be left high and dry

Amid coalition crisis over new broadcaster, finance minister takes swipe at Netanyahu, saying he doesn't need 'lessons in compassion'

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (right) and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett at a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (right) and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett at a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon promised on Sunday that the government will find a solution for the Israel Broadcasting Authority employees who are set to be laid off with the new public broadcaster set to air, rejecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to torpedo the new broadcaster.

Amid an escalating coalition crisis over the new public broadcaster, Kahlon said that he doesn’t need “lessons in compassion” from anyone, in an apparent reference to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, who has long sought to scrap the new broadcaster and revive the IBA — which his own Likud government voted to shutter in favor of the new entity — on Saturday night reneged on a deal that would have seen the new corporation go live on April 30, as planned.

The prime minister said he “changed his mind” after meeting with IBA employees, arguing that there was no need to see them laid off to form the new corporation.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

If Kahlon refuses to scrap the new broadcaster, Netanyahu was reported to have told Likud ministers at his home on Saturday, “we’ll go to elections.”

In the elections, he further reportedly said, Kahlon’s Kulanu party would be wiped off the political map, and then he would pass legislation to cancel the new corporation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/EPA Pool and AFP Photo/Abir Sultan)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/EPA Pool and AFP Photo/Abir Sultan)

Speaking alongside Education Minister Naftali Bennett in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Kahlon vowed that the IBA employees would be compensated and proposed “massive” integration of the workers in the new corporation.

He did not, however, address Netanyahu’s warnings or suggest the new broadcaster would not start broadcasting by the launch date.

“Right now, there are problems and unfortunately the IBA workers, whose case was not dealt with, fell between the cracks,” he said. “I don’t need lessons in compassion from anyone.”

“Others did not take responsibility. We will take responsibility,” he said.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017. (Emil Salman/POOL)

In 2014, the Knesset passed broad reforms that would close the IBA and replace it with a state-funded corporation formally called “Kan” and widely known as HaTa’agid (The Corporation). Despite having supported the original legislation, Netanyahu has repeatedly delayed the launch of the new broadcaster and is now trying to scrap it completely.

Netanyahu, who until recently was also acting communications minister, has long complained of a lack of government control over the corporation’s editorial line, which may be critical of his government.

Kahlon, meanwhile, has fought for the establishment of the new broadcaster, as legislated, and with reduced government meddling.

Netanyahu left Israel on Saturday night for China, where he landed on Sunday for a three-day visit.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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