Israel Elections

Netanyahu Tells Settler Leaders: The Left Will Try to Take Power With the Media's Help

Netanyahu curtails campaign propaganda reform obligating transparency in sponsored ads ■ Joint List leaning towards unified front as Tibi remains undecided ■ Finance Minister Kahlon to assign close aides to top of Kulanu party list

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 25, 2018.
Oren Ben Hakun

Netanyahu tells settler leaders: The left will try to take power with the media's help

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told settler leaders on Wednesday that the left will try to take power in the upcoming elections "using the media and others."

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"They can't be allowed to succeed," Netanyahu said at a meeting in Jerusalem, adding that a left-wing election victory "will be a clear danger to the settlement enterprise."

The fate of the country and of the settlements should not be taken for granted, Netanyahu said, adding: "We had to also work hard with the current U.S. administration to realize the great achievements to the settlements. The prime minister warned that "under a left-wing government, it will all flip in an instance." (Noa Landau)

Netanyahu curtails campaign propaganda reform obligating transparency in sponsored ads

Netanyahu recently instructed Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to stop promoting a reform in campaign propaganda legislation which would force the transparency of the funding source in ads, including sponsored internet comments.

In a meeting held several months ago with Shaked and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky, Netanyahu attributed his request to wanting to study the bill before promoting it. However, political officials assess Netanyahu was concerned some of its clauses would hurt his campaign.

Among other things, the reform would rescind the ban on campaign ads in the last 60 days before the elections, as well as include obligatory transparency in publishing propaganda. The bill stipulates that publications would be required to include the name of the person or body that commissioned them.

This includes any ad by an electoral nominee, his party or anyone appointed by them, and applies to cases where propaganda is written or distributed for pay, including internet comments on social media.

These requirements currently apply to print ads, but the committee that penned the bill sought to implement the law to television, radio and internet publications. (Jonathan Lis)

Israeli Knesset votes to dissolve

The Knesset voted for its dissolution on Wednesday and departure for election hiatus, with the coalition and opposition set to convene next week to pass a series of uncontested bills.

One of the bills that may be up for vote is the bill that makes "consumption of prostitution" an administrative offense, along with several economic bills, including a bill that would allow to privatize the Israeli postal service and another dealing with copyright infringement online.

MK Miki Zohar (Likud), chairman of the Knesset House Comittee, threatened to postpone the vote to dissolve it until January 8 in order to allow the coalition to continue promoting several bills.

Lawmakers Masud Ganaim, Ayman Odeh and Talab Abu Arar in the Knesset, Jerusalem, 2018
David Bachar

"The dissolution of the Knesset should happen at the eleventh hour and now, so we could continue until then to serve the public," said Zohar. Nevertheless, Knesset speaker clarified no bills will be passed into law until the bill to dissolve the Knesset is approved.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said at the plenum: "This is an hour of emergency for the State of Israel, no less. Israel needs an upset ... I feel our government is crossing every red line, spitting at everything that has held this country for 70 years as the state of the Jewish people and the only democracy in the Middle East." (Jonathan Lis)

Joint List leaning toward unified front as Tibi remains undecided

The parties forming the Joint List will likely be running together again in Israel's upcoming elections on April 9, with only Ahmad Tibi's party, Ta'al, remaining undecided on whether to run by itself.

Chairman Ayman Odeh told Haaretz the struggle against Israel's nation-state law proved the public needs the Joint List. "If the Joint List was important before this government and the nation-state law, it is doubtless that the need today is much greater, thus it is our national duty to maintain the list with all its components."

Deputy Health Minister and Agudat Yisrael representative Yaakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 8, 2015
Olivier Fitoussi

The southern faction of the United Arab List adopted a similar outlook, with its chairman Masud Ganaim saying that the votes threshold remaining at 4 percent "doesn't leave a lot of options. No party would take the risk of separately running for elections. The political reality and attacks against the Arab public necessitate presenting a unified front."

In his inner circle, Tibi has been discussing the possibility of running by himself, presenting polls that have him passing the elections threshold. However, he realizes this is a big gamble which could endanger his party's representation in the Knesset, and is expected to seek assurances that Ta'al would receive adequate seats in the Joint List.

"This can only happen if the Arab public is given a real option of influencing the makeup of the Join List in a democratic way and with just distribution. If this doesn't happen, and deals get made like they were when the previous list was formed, it'll be hard to reach an agreement on a joint run." (Jack Khoury)

Ultra-Orthodox faction demands change in composition of unified list

Degel Hatorah, the Lithuanian faction of the United Torah Judaism, is demanding a change in the composition of the party's list, this in light of the success many of its members had in recent municipal elections running opposite members of the Hassidic faction, Agudat Yisrael.

On Tuesday night, Agudat Yisrael representative Yaakov Litzman met with Degel Hatorah chairman Moshe Gafni to discuss the issue. The two decided to meet again in the coming days in order to reach a settlement which will be brought before the factions.

"What was will no longer be," Gafni told Kol HaRama, a haredi radio station, in an interview last week. "Everyone understands we can't remain in a situation in which representation is inadequate. I hope people will act wisely."

Since the list's formation in 1992, representatives from Agudat Yisrael would receive the first seat and senior roles within it. Degel Hatorah insisted its people were being deprived and said most of the list's votes come from their constituency, but still failed to alter the situation. In the lead up to the recent municipal elections, the faction received an approval from its leader, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, to run independently in some cities.

It won a landslide victory in Jerusalem, earning double the number of seats in the city council as its Hassidic counterpart. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

Finance Minister Kahlon to assign close aides to top of Kulanu party list

Two aides of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will resign Wednesday in light of his intention to assign them among the top ten spots of his party Kulanu ahead of the next elections.

The first is Lihi Golan, Kahlon's closest assistant, who was questioned several months ago at the Civil Service Commission after letting her brother use her government-issued vehicle, against protocol.

The second aide is Nadav Scheinberger, 40, who served as Kahlon's spokesman during his time as communications minister, ran Kulanu's media divison for the 2015 campaign and then acted as Kahlon's chief of staff in the Finance Ministry. Kahlon intends to appoint Scheinberger as the chairman of his faction in the next Knesset, replacing MK Roy Folkman.

Golan, 26, was one of the first activists in Kulanu, and acted as Kahlon's assistant in the Economics Ministry. Last November, she replaced David Atzioni as Kahlon's personal assistant. Golan even relocated to Haifa, near Kahlon's home, so that she may be close to him throughout the day.

The incident with her car was discovered after her brother got in an accident. A senior Finance Ministry official told Haaretz they notified Kahlon several times of the vehicle's irregular gas bills, but nothing was done on the matter.

Golan eventually paid the state 21,000 shekels because of damages caused by her brother. Members of the ministry were surprised by the appointment, especially in light of Golan's soured relations with the entire Kahlon bureau. If Kulanu is elected, Golan, who turns 27 in May, will be the youngest lawmaker in Knesset history. (Chaim Levinson)