Fight Over Freebie Papers Delayed

'Israel Hayom Law' sponsor Solodkin is playing for time, and more votes.

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima ) told the ministerial committee for legislation this weekend that she wants to wait until the Knesset's winter session before submitting her latest legislative scheme for shutting down the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom. This bill would prohibit the use of "predatory pricing," which in this case means selling goods for less than half what it costs to produce them. It was on the committee's agenda for today, but will presumably be removed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Sheldon Adelson
Tess Scheflan

Anonymous political sources pointed to the Knesset plenum's rejection earlier this month of Solodkin's last attempt to kill Israel Hayom, a bill that would have barred the free distribution of a newspaper for a period of more than a year after the start of publication, with the exception of institutional subscriptions. Solodkin's colleagues in the legislature shot it down 61 to 14, with one abstention.

It was that magic number 61 - a simple majority in the 120-member Knesset - that observers say made the Kadima MK think that her new proposal might go the way of the last one if introduced now. They says she's decided to wait to see whether a rift will develop between Yisrael Beiteinu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the freeze in West Bank settlement construction. The freeze is scheduled to end in September, and the shifts in coalition alliances associated with that are judged likely to sway the Yisrael Beiteinu MKs toward supporting Solodkin's bill.

Israel Hayom, which is owned by the U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is considered a major threat to Ofer Nimrodi's Maariv daily newspaper. Netanyahu voted against the bill. He, associates and the lobbying firm Policy, which Israel Hayom had hired, pressured ministers and coalition MKs to oppose the bill.

Netanyahu, who is friendly with Adelson and his wife, Miriam, enforced coalition discipline in the vote on the first bill.