The Habayit Hayehudi party supported a bill in 2014 to curb the free Israel Hayom daily "because the newspaper bullied us," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked admitted on Sunday.
"Israel Hayom was not a right-wing newspaper. It served one person. That has changed," Shaked said, speaking at a conference of the Israeli Democracy Institute and the Makor Rishon newspaper.
Israel Hayom is a daily newspaper, distributed without charge, and is financed by the Jewish-American Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Often dubbed the "Bibiton" ("Bibi's mouthpiece"), the paper is almost always openly supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The "Israel Hayom law" was proposed in 2014 by rival parties to Likud and would have made it illegal to widely distribute such a free newspaper.
Although Shaked had been one of the bill's co-sponsors, neither she nor any members of her party, including Habayit Hayehudi's chairman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, voted for it when the crunch came. Shaked went missing when the Knesset voted.
The Israel Hayom bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset in 2014, with the support of a number of coalition MKs. If the bill had gone had been enacted into law, Adelson would have to had to start charging for Israel Hayom. The mere threat that the bill was advancing is a key reason why Netanyahu brought forward the elections to March 2015, as he admitted recently.
Bennett said back in 2014 that "Israel Hayom isn't a real newspaper. It's Pravda, a mouthpiece of a single man who is the prime minister. At every collision between the national interest and the prime minister, the paper always slanted in favor of the prime minister."
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Shaked herself accused Israel Hayom of "wild incitement against Habayit Hayehudi." The paper frequently attacked Bennett and Shaked, and not just because they supported abolishing its distribution free of charge.
In 2012, before she was elected to the Knesset, Israel Hayom interviewed Shaked – but it spiked the article, she said.