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Panel Nixes PM's News Conference, Calling It 'Election Propaganda'

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The chairman of Israel's Central Election Committee, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, stepped in on Sunday to block the broadcast of a news conference held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling it "election proganda."

The news conference, which was supposed to air during the 8 P.M. evening news broadcasts, was meant to announce the appointment of popular Likud minister Moshe Kahlon as head of Israel Land Council.

The Israel Land Council sets policy for the Israel Land Administration, which manages over 90 percent of the land in the country.

In a statement, the prime minister said the move was meant to lower housing prices, especially for young couples and recently discharged IDF soldiers.

Kahlon is widely credited for bringing down the cost of cellular phone service during his term as communications minister in the outgoing government by introducing competition into the industry.

"I am confident that together with minister Kahlon we will lower housing prices just as we lowered mobile-phone prices," said Netanyahu. 

The decision to prevent the broadcast came in response to an inquiry by the Yesh Atid party, which expressed concerns that the announcement would be used for political profit ahead of Tuesday's election. Rubenstein's panel agreed that it was improper, and deemed it illegal.

Netanyahu's move drew harsh criticism in the political sphere. Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovich said the prime minister was using Kahlon "as a fig leaf ahead of the social-economic catastrophe Netanyahu is planning for us in 48 hours, if elected."

"Everyone knows that Kahlon resigned the government in protest against Netanyahu's cruel economic and social policies," Yacimovich added.

Last October, Kahlon unexpectedly announced that he was taking a break from politics and would not run in the upcoming elections. Later that month, he was reportedly weighing setting up his own political party, which was expected to pose a serious challenge to the Likud. He ultimately decided not to run on an independent slate.

Moshe Kahlon, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset. Credit: Emil Salman

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