No Early Elections: Netanyahu Strong-arms Finance Minister, Kills New News Broadcaster

Compromise deal to create new division that will oversee news broadcasts on Channel 1 and Israel Radio.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (left) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting on February 1, 2016.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (left) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting on February 1, 2016. Amit Shaabi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a deal with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Thursday that puts an end to a political crisis that threatened to see the government dissolved over a new public broadcaster, senior sources say. According to the deal, the broadcaster's news division will be dismantled.

Earlier this month the prime minister announced he was rethinking a compromise to allow Kan, the new public broadcaster to launch, but only following enactment of new legislation giving the government more influence over the new authority.

Netanyahu had threatened to dissolve the Knesset if Kahlon doesn't agree to pass the legislation, which would also ensure political control over all broadcast media outlets in the country. Netanyahu and Kahlon had met five times over the past week in bid to end the crisis.

According to the sources, the two agreed that a new division will be created to oversee news broadcasts on Channel 1 and Israel Radio and will not be controlled by the heads of the new broadcasting corporation.

Kahlon confirmed that an agreement had officially been reached in a press conference on Thursday, where workers of the broadcasting corporation affected by the deal protested.

"From the moment I took up my role I have been standing guard over democracy, over the Supreme Court and over the responsibility of public funds" Kahlon said.

"The struggle over the last few days was a struggle over principles, not ego. I am happy to announce the agreement that we managed to reach an agreement with the prime minister. The agreement guarantees freedom of press, freedom of speech and adheres to the budget. In the framework of agreement there will be no political interference," Kahlon continued.

The finance minister added that "there were those were interested in worsening the crisis – this might be good for politicians, but not for the economy or for citizens. The country needs stability in order to continue to be productive for its citizens. We have many challenges ahead; we need to deal with them for the betterment of the people."

According to coalition chairman David Bitan, Netanyahu and Kahlon had reconciled their positions and new elections won't take place.

Final discussions between the two sides lasted into the night on Wednesday with the participation of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. Mendelblit was asked to give his opinions on the compromises being offered after he had rejected multiple solutions that involved the consolidation of the Broadcasting Authority and the new Broadcasting Corporation.

Prior to Thursday, legal approval was one of the main roadblocks preventing Netanyahu and Kahlon from reaching a conclusion acceptable to both sides.