Ehud Olmert, in his capacity as Communications Minister, informed the Knesset Economics Committee yesterday that he plans to freeze the proposed law for three new "designated radio stations" - a bill known as the "Arutz-7 law."

Olmert said that in the "very near future, I will appoint a public commission that will deal with the full range of aspects touching on the formation of new radio stations in Israel." The bottom line is that no practical progress will be made towards the establishment of new radio stations in the foreseeable future.

The announcement was accepted by the entire committee, except for MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union). Hendel, whom many consider Arutz-7's foremost supporter in the Knesset, said, "Minister Olmert continues to break records for brazen hypocrisy. When it was convenient for him, he proudly showed off the radio station bill wherever he could, but now, when because of small-minded political considerations he is afraid that the bill might pass, he does all he can to bury it."

On February 23, 1999, the Knesset, by a 40-30 vote, passed a law formally licensing Arutz-7 - and within hours, left-wing MKs Yossi Sarid, Chaim Oron, and Eitan Cabel petitioned the High Court against it. Three years later, on March 26, 2002, the Supreme Court deemed the duly-passed Knesset law null and void. On Oct. 20, 2003, ten Arutz-7 directors and staff members were convicted of broadcasting without a license, even though the broadcasts had emanated from an off-shore ship, and the station promptly closed down its radio broadcasts. On Dec. 29, the Cabinet voted to back Olmert's proposed legislation that would establish three new national radio stations to serve specific population sectors. A Communications Ministry official said at the time that there was no guarantee that Arutz-7 would win a tender, but added, "We hope that Arutz-7 will win." In February of this year, the Knesset passed the first reading of the bill, thus enabling its transfer to the Knesset Economics Committee - where it has now been buried.

Sources within Arutz-7 said that they never had much confidence in the above process, and instead are working to obtain a license for a regional radio station.

Arutz-7's broadcasts continue as usual on the internet, at <> in English, and in Hebrew. They can also be heard by phone (in Hebrew) at: 057-777-7777, 03-606-6777, 050-822-2233, and 054-476-6011. From abroad, dial country code 972 and then the above numbers without the first 0.