The religious Zionist Jewish Home has co-authored a bill that would effectively shut down the popular daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom – which succeeded in recent years in breaking the extreme left wing monopoly on mainstream printed news.
The move is quite surprising, seeing as the Jewish Home is widely seen as the most nationalist party in the current Knesset. A Knesset insider tells Arutz Sheva that the bill is no more than an instance of political maneuvering and arm-twisting, however.
The bill was co-proposed by MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), Elazar Stern (Hatnua), Ariel Atias (Shas) and Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid).
Under the bill, a daily newspaper that is one of the four daily newspapers most widely circulated in Israel would not be allowed to distribute its issues for free for more than a six-month period. Israel has other free newspapers beside Yisrael Hayom, but other stipulations regarding the number of pages in the newspapers affected and the number of days per week in which they are distributed, narrow down the field to one – Yisrael Hayom.
Yisrael Hayom is owned by philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, who is considered to be a friend and supporter of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The newspaper's detractors and competitors claim that it is overly protective of Netanyahu – who is viscerally hated by the rest of Israel's press.
The newspaper is distributed free of charge and reportedly operates at a loss. Opponents claim that Adelson is willing to absorb the loss, to prop up Netanyahu.
The bill is supposedly meant to encourage the ailing newspaper industry – but all and sundry in the Knesset agree that it is simply meant to close down Yisrael Hayom, or force it to charge money for its issues, thus making it less popular and less influential.
The reason for the Jewish Home's support for the bill, a Knesset insider tells Arutz Sheva, is similar to that motivating members of Yesh Atid, Hatnua and Yisrael Beytenu – all members of the Coalition alongside Jewish Home – to do so. Jewish Home seeks to put pressure on Netanyahu – and intends to back away from the bill in return for concessions from Netanyahu, on matters close to its heart – such as the Conversion Bill.