Coalition Lawmakers Boycott Debate on Netanyahu's Move on Media

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog calls Netanyahu's compromise on the new public broadcasting corporation a 'disgrace.'

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union).
Olivier Fitoussi

Coalition lawmakers boycotted the Knesset debate Wednesday on the topic of "attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seize control of the media in Israel."

The debate was held at the request of Meretz and Zionist Union. Only nine lawmakers showed up – Oren Hazan of the Likud and eight others from the opposition. Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) left the plenum in anger after the chairman of the meeting, Zionist Union's Yoel Hasson, asked him why his colleagues were boycotting the hearing.

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog addressed Netanyahu, who was not present: “It wasn’t a compromise you achieved, but a disgrace. The compromise will not be implemented; it is illegal and impossible. The broadcasting corporation will indeed be launched. Now we are obligated to be concerned about the employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. From the amazing tax surpluses we can and must take care of the future livelihoods of the hundreds of IBA workers who haven’t been hired by the corporation.”

“While for you, Mr. Prime Minister, everything is rosy," Herzog continued, "and you are busy from morning to night with endless meetings to fashion a broadcasting corporation to your liking and preferences, you haven’t found time to convene even one meeting of the social-economic staff, the full cabinet or the ministers’ forum to deal urgently with the shameful disability allowance and to address the protest by the disabled in Rabin Square.”

“We have an obsessive prime minister," said Meretz chairman Zehava Galon. "The whole coalition is subjugated to this obsession of his and the entire public is paying the price. A rotten compromise was signed that was approved by the family attorney general; no attorney general would have approved it. The prime minister who only two years ago called IBA employees ‘Hamasniks’ is suddenly concerned about them.”

Galon’s party colleague Ilan Gilon said, “How many more people will you have to make miserable, prime minister? How many systems will you need to smash to get the best photo op? I know your frames of reference are [Russian President Vladimir] Putin on the one hand and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan on the other. Now you found a great treasure in the thorn bush in the United States. It seems that you’re taking a strong example from him, at least judging by your hairstyle.”

Earlier, Hanegbi mocked the opposition for having so few of its members attend a debate that they themselves had initiated. “The opposition made a special and unusual request during the recess to have a special debate on an issue that is preoccupying public discussion and is echoing throughout Israeli society. But it seems that this issue doesn’t interest the opposition,” Hanegbi said.