Netanyahu, Israeli Finance Minister Meet Again in Attempt to Solve Coalition Crisis

Netanyahu wants to scuttle plan to close existing public broadcaster, while Moshe Kahlon insists on launching new broadcaster on April 30 as scheduled.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 19, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Tuesday evening in a third attempt to solve the dispute over the launch of Israel’s new public broadcaster.

The meeting ended without an agreement, according to the Prime Minister's Office, though they agreed they would continue to discuss the matter.

Netanyahu is facing a coalition crisis over his desire to scuttle the plan to close the existing Israeli Broadcasting Authority and replace it with a new public broadcaster, Kan. Kahlon, however, is insisting on launching the new broadcaster on April 30 as scheduled. Netanyahu has said he will hold snap elections if no deal was reached to shut Kan down before its official launch.

Over the last few days, professionals from both sides of the dispute have examined a series of alternatives for operating the broadcasting corporation to meet Netanyahu's demands. Among the alternatives considered was the transfer of the news division from the Broadcasting Authority to the corporation.

Tuesday was the third meeting between the two since Netanyahu returned from a visit to China.

On Sunday, the two met twice but were unable to reach an agreement. A senior member of the Likud said at the end of the second meeting that the possibility to go to elections was still on the table.

The senior official, who is involved in the contacts between the two ministers, told Haaretz, “The prime minister isn’t interested in elections and is examining various options to resolve the crisis with Kahlon. But the central problem right now is legal: No one has found a solution that all the parties agree on that would also get the approval of the legal advisers. If no such solution is found, Netanyahu could go to elections.”

Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), head of the Finance Committee, said on Monday that he opposes holding elections, but won't attempt to block the decision if it’s made.

"We don't believe that the march to elections is the right thing to do, but we aren't afraid of it," Gafni said at the open of a committee meeting. "If needed, we will go vote again. Maybe that will even do us good, like the polls say."