Ministers on Sunday again delayed the start date for Israel’s new public broadcaster, due to go on air in less than a week, to give lawmakers time to make last-minute changes.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the body responsible for deciding the coalition’s position on Knesset proposals, took the vote to enact a series of measures aimed at pushing a new bill through parliament before the April 30 deadline.
Despite having faced numerous delays at the hand of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the new broadcaster, formally called “Kan” and widely known as HaTa’agid (the corporation), was finally due to go on air at the end of this month.
But last month, under pressure from Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed to a deal that will entirely strip the new broadcaster of its news division and create a separate broadcast entity to deal with all current affairs offerings.
In order to facilitate the changes, which represent a significant overhaul of wide-reaching reforms passed in 2014, Kahlon and Netanyahu agreed to delay the transmission of the stripped-back corporation by another two weeks.
But with Finance Ministry opposition to some elements of the deal and the Knesset having been on recess for the past three weeks, little time remains to finalize the legislation. While normal bills usually take weeks to months to go through the legislative process, the coalition plans to complete the three plenary readings and committee debates required for this proposal in just two days.
After being introduced on the Knesset floor Wednesday, the bill will immediately go to a special committee where it will face a series of marathon debates to get it passed by Thursday. And, in a rare move, the Justice Ministry has agreed to publish the law in the official registry immediately after its final Knesset vote in order to allow it to come into effect this week and not to have to wait the usual two weeks before publication.
Once it is passed, lawmakers will again face an uphill battle to form the legislation to establish the new news division by mid-May.
A spokesperson for Kan told The Times of Israel, however, that no one at the broadcaster had been informed of any of the details of the deal and that, as mandated by the current law, the corporation was still planning to begin transmissions on April 30.
“Obviously it seems likely that we will be delayed, but we have to be ready in case the bill falls through for some reason,” Gilli Shem-Tov said. “It’s not impossible that Kahlon and Netanyahu will have another disagreement and then we will have to go ahead as planned.”
The March agreement headed off a coalition crisis that started in mid-March when Netanyahu backtracked on an agreement with Kahlon to launch the new public broadcasting corporation set up through a law passed by his previous government in 2014 and slated to replace the aging Israel Broadcasting Authority.
The prime minister instead called for rehabilitating the ailing IBA. Kahlon, meanwhile, fought for the establishment of the new state broadcaster, as legislated, and with reduced government meddling