Coalition Crisis Revived: Netanyahu Government's Flagship Bills in Danger Due to Lack of Votes

So-called cultural loyalty bill among proposed laws that may be scrapped as key coalition partner Kahlon tells party they can vote according to conscience

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, October 9, 2018.
Emil Salman

Several flagship bills of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition may be scrapped after Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon decided to allow the members of his party, Kulanu, to vote according to their conscience – thus endangering the needed majority. 

The bills include the so-called cultural loyalty bill, which would give the culture minister the authority to retroactively suspend funding for cultural activities that “contravene the principles of the state.”

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Another bill in question includes one that would make it easier for ministers to appoint legal advisers who identify with their policies, and another is the so-called Gideon Sa’ar law, which would force the president to assign the task of forming the government to the party leader supported by the largest number of lawmakers. 

Kahlon decided that his party will vote with the coalition only on bills that appear in the coalition agreements or those which are not controversial. His decision would also make it harder for the coalition to comply with the demand made by Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman – to pass into law capital punishment for terrorists – which he made a condition of his party's support of the coalition bills. 

Culture Minister Miri Regev accused Lieberman and Kahlon of aspiring to topple the government, from the inside in Kahlon's case, she told the press, about his decision to free his Knesset members to vote on the "loyalty in culture" bill according to their conscience.

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Kahlon is running scared of "two and a half artists" (meaning, nothing to be afraid of) she said. Kahlon has the power to deny funding to cultural institutions, but he has not used that power to date despite complaints about  institutions that committed offenses against the so-called "Nakba law," Regev said.

Kahlon enabled movies and plays "glorifying terrorists with blood on their hands" to continue to receive funding, Regev accused.  

On Lieberman, Regev wondered "what had happened to him" – "Imagine, Lieberman together with [Ahmad] Tibi and Tamar Zandberg transferring money to terrorists, supporting terrorism." She claims that after he resigned as defense minister, Lieberman promised to vote in favor of the loyalty in culture bill, but he reneged: "Loyalty is only to his own ego. His word really is no good," Regev said.

Lieberman said he had reached an agreement with the coalition to support those of its bills that comply with his opinions, but that didn't work out because the only thing they care about is the so-called "Gideon Sa'ar bill".

Regarding the cultural loyalty bill, Lieberman said that the coalition has 61 members (i.e., a majority of one). "The problem is that some members, like Benny Begin and the Kulanu faction, oppose it." He tried to reach a deal with the coalition, but they insisted that Yisrael Beiteinu also support the Gideon Sa'ar bill, which he would not do, Lieberman said. "This isn't ideology, it's seatology," he quipped.

Since the coalition seemed to expect that the Yisrael Beteinu party members would be suckers, passing all the bills the Likud wants while they don't even get support for one bill, Lieberman said – he had announced that Yisrael Beteinu will not support any government-sponsored bill.