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Attempts to Stifle Nationalist Newspaper Set to Fail?

Even an MK behind bill to shutter Israel Hayom doubts it will pass. Will opposition turn into a victory for free speech?
By Tova Dvorin and Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/13/2014, 3:56 PM

Man reads Israel Hayom
Man reads Israel Hayom
Flash 90

MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home/Bayit Yehudi) signed a controversial bill to shutter nationalist paper Israel Hayom - but doubt lingers below the surface, according to the daily. 

Shaked spoke Tuesday on the "Good Morning, World" television show on Reshet Tuesday, hosted by Miri Nevo and Avri Gilad.

Gilad showed Shaked a list of the names and phone numbers of the MKs who signed the bill, to which Shaked replied: "they are obsessing over this."

But while Shaked admitted on the show that she signed on to the law, she herself doubted the bill would become law. "It won't pass," she said. 

Under the bill, which was proposed in March, the four top free newspapers distributed daily in Israel would be banned from continuing to do so for more than six months - without charging the public. As analysts noted when the bill was proposed, the specific regulations in the bill more or less single out Israel Hayom as the only newspaper which meets the criteria for the ban - a move heavily criticized as monopolizing a left-wing media market. 

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 often condemned by the rest of Israel's press.

Outrage has snowballed after several right-wing MKs vocally supported the bill - specifically Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett. Bennett called the paper a "communist" publication shortly after the bill was drafted. 

"It’s the mouthpiece of one person, the Prime Minister," he fired, in an interview with IDF Radio in late March. "At every junction point, every point of friction between the national interest and the interest of the Prime Minister, they chose the side of the Prime Minister." 

While the story has been somewhat skirted by headlines recently, journalists and other members of the press continue to debate the validity of the law. 

This week, Irit Linor and Koby Arieli debated the issue on the "Last Word" IDF Radio program, calling the bill "a scandal." 

"I'm really ashamed to read news about this," Arieli stated. "It would have been better if this bill had never been born, and we hope the paper] continues to be published, come what may."