Kafe Knesset for March 30
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Hallelujah! The never-ending IBC crisis is finally over. After five days of intense negotiations, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon reached an understanding this morning on the future of Israeli public broadcasting. According to the new plan, the Israel Broadcast Corporation will go on the air by the 15th of May, meaning there will be a two-week delay, but it will go the on air. But, and this is a big but, the IBC news department will undergo substantial changes and will actually be closed and reopened. The IBC managers Eldad Koblantz and Gil Omer will still keep their jobs, but they will not have anything to do with the news department, and a new chief news manager and news editor will be appointed instead.
It is what Israelis call a “Mapai” compromise – in which both sides had to give in and both sides can try and present it as a victory. Netanyahu didn’t close the IBC as he wished, but he did achieve greater control over the news department, and will probably make sure that Geula Even, wife of his rival Gideon Saar, does not become the chief news anchor. Kahlon, for his part, lived up to his word that the IBC will go on air, but he gave in to Netanyahu’s power grab in the news department.
Peace between Kahlon and Netanyahu gives the coalition some breathing room but not necessarily for long. Many politicians believe that the IBC crisis was just an excuse, and that Bibi has decided to call early elections because of his police investigations. According to that theory, Netanyahu found out that he will have trouble rallying support for early elections over the IBC, and is likely to find another reason to break up the Coalition soon. “We are living on borrowed time,” a senior Coalition source told Kafe Knesset. “The tensions between all of the partners are so high that it’s just a matter of time.”
Herzog gets tough on Netanyahu. Netanyahu and Kahlon may have achieved a “Mapai” compromise, but Herzog is the leader of the party formerly known as Mapai – for now – and is using their media machinations to support his own political campaign. Herzog is gearing up for a Labor leadership primary in three months (more on that below), so it’s no surprise that he is being tougher on Netanyahu than before, threatening to take him to the High Court of Justice over the premier’s intervention in the media. Herzog wrote a pre-lawsuit letter to Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, letting them know what he is planning. The suit comes after Herzog wrote an official letter of protest as opposition leader to Mandelblit saying Netanyahu’s intervention is inappropriate, and has yet to receive an answer.
Amona II on the way: Another mini-crisis is expected to be averted this evening as the security cabinet will be asked to authorize the establishment of the first new West Bank settlement in 25 years, as a new home for the residents of Amona who were evacuated earlier this year. The approval is expected to come through in the last hours ahead of the March 31 deadline Netanyahu had set in negotiations with the Amona residents. “I had promised from the start that I would create a new settlement. I made that commitment in December, and I will keep it today,” Netanyahu said. The news follows ongoing settlement discussions with the White House, which had delayed his decision on the matter, and led to hunger strikes by the Amona evacuees and pressure from Netanyahu’s right flank in Likud and from Naftali Bennett.
Herzog’s next headache. Labor’s internal politics have been confusing Israelis since the country’s establishment and tonight’s Labor Conference is no exception. The important thing to know is that, for Herzog, the buck stops here. He’s been trying to postpone a party leadership primary since he became the opposition leader in 2015, and eventually he had to give in and set a date for July 3. That date and the rules of the vote are expected to be authorized in the conference tonight. The conference will also discuss the possibility of forming a broader left-wing bloc with a primary that will be open to the public, for which Tzipi Livni has been advocating. Livni sees the concept as an Israeli Democratic Party that will encompass varying positions within the left. At the moment, however, it doesn’t look like anyone outside of the existing Livni Party-Labor bloc, a/k/a the Zionist Union, wants to join them.
If the Labor Conference gets messy today, it may be over a more esoteric issue – the number of representatives from the periphery in the party’s list for the next election. Some 750 party activists have announced their intention to “rebel,” because Herzog proposed only five such representatives instead of seven. The activists are bringing up an old complaint in the party, that its non-regional primary system allows “stars” who were well-known before entering the Knesset – like current MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Miki Rosenthal, Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli and Itzik Shmuly – to have an easier time succeeding than people who were active in the party for many years.