Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett promised Tuesday not to allow the Israel Hayom Bill to pass in the next Knesset. In response to a question in an appearance at Bar Ilan University, Bennett said that he will prevent the bill from becoming the law of the land.
The bill's passing in the preliminary reading is widely seen as a catalyst that brought about the early end of the current government.
It was Bennett's loyal right hand woman, MK Ayelet Shaked, who originally co-sponsored the bill, raising many eyebrows in the nationalist camp. The bill would ban newspapers that are distributed freely under certain conditions, but is tailored specifically to target Israel Hayom.
Israel Hayom came into existence 8 years ago and has become Israel's most widely read daily newspaper, beating out Yedioth Aharonoth, which held that title for decades. It is published by Sheldon Adelson, a businessman with close ties to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Not surprisingly, the newspaper tends to be more sympathetic to Netanyahu than its competitors.
Netanyahu sees Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth and its sister website Ynet, as "the central element that stands behind the wave of mudslinging" against him and his wife.
Mozes, he claimed recently, “sees all means as legitimate in order to topple the Likud government under my leadership, to shut down Israel Hayom and bring back the oppressive control of Yedioth Aharonoth over printed journalism.”
Yedioth and Ynet “are initiating and timing ridiculous, false and biased smears against me and my wife as part of a media campaign to replace the Likud government with a leftist one,” Netanyahu added on Facebook.
Yedioth Aharonoth is not only anti-Netanyahu but also fiercely leftist, as are all of Israel's top-rating news sources, including print and electronic media. Israel Hayom is the only non-leftist news source with a circulation that rivals the large leftist sources – hence the consternation among nationalists at the Jewish Home's original sponsorship of the bill. Insides in the party hinted months ago that Bennett does not intend to allow the bill to pass, but seeks to use it as a means of applying political pressure on Netanyahu.