The coalition crisis which had threatened to topple the Netanyahu government has been largely resolved, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said Monday morning.
Speaking with Israel Radio, Bennett said he was optimistic that early elections could be avoided following late-night negotiations between the Likud and Kulanu parties.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly threatened to dissolve the government and call for early elections if Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) refused to accept Netanyahu’s demand to cancel the formation of the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation.
The crisis revolved around the future of Israel’s official state broadcasting agency, the IBA, and its planned replacement, the IPBC.
While Netanyahu, who also serves as Communications Minister, initially backed plans pushed by Kahlon to terminate the state-run IBA and replace it with the independent IPBC – which was to be modeled after the BBC in Britain – he later backtracked, pushing off the opening of the IPBC repeatedly, before ultimately turning against it completely.
But Kahlon has demanded that the IBA – a government agency – be terminated as planned, and the IPBC opened to replace it by April 30th. In order to join the coalition, each party signed that in decisions involving the communication ministry, the prime minister would have the final say.
Netanyahu and other senior Likud figures, citing concerns regarding the lack of governmental oversight over the new IPBC and the prohibitive cost of severance payments to IBA employees, have in recent months staunchly opposed the change.
Now, says Bennett, the framework for a compromise agreement has been settled upon. Under the agreement the IPBC will replace the IBA as scheduled at the end of April. But the independence of the new IPBC will be limited, with an oversight committee to be formed to extend government authority over the IPBC.
MK David Bitan (Likud), one of the staunchest opponents of the IPBC, declared the coalition crisis over.
“The crisis is over. There won’t be [early] elections over this, but there will be elections if the Likud doesn’t have the influence it thinks it will have.”