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James J. Marlow goes into detail about the debate within the coalition and Israel regarding the closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the launch of the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation. He predicts that the IBA will most likely unite with the IBC in some form.

The Israel Broadcasting Corporation studio

The Israel Broadcasting Corporation studio Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

It’s hard to imagine that a new Israel broadcast authority slated to go on air on May 1 as legislated by the government could actually bring down that very same government. But that is exactly what has brought about this current coalition crisis and pollsters have been busy compiling their numbers on what would happen if an early election is held.

Originally, the Likud party voted to disband the IBA and fund a new up-to-date service fit for the 21st century. Some of the workers and broadcasters were considered old fashion, stuck in their mindset and almost impossible to fire because of their contracts and powerful union backing. Others, however, were extremely professional, hardworking and dedicated to the first ever broadcasting outfit in the state. Many went on to become very successful broadcasters, producers and technical people with other networks having received excellent training at the IBA.

But Benjamin Netanyahu, who naturally intends to stay prime minister for as long as possible, was concerned that the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation was appointing board members and decision makers who were extremely critical of his leadership. There is nothing wrong with honest sincere criticism of a government and its prime minister within an extremely free press environment. But when that criticism turns into an obsession of condemnation to bring about a new government and leadership at any opportunity, then Netanyahu rightly asked why the government should pay for it.

Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) wanted to finalize the deal and insisted the IBC will commence broadcasting in just over one month. Netanyahu then admitted he changed his mind after meeting with IBA employees who pleaded with him to save their jobs. The prime minister threatened in response to dissolve the government and call an early election if Kahlon did not agree to immediately shut down the new IBC.

Meanwhile, the country is astonished that such an ill thought out plan has turned into such a shambles weeks before it is scheduled to go on air. It is really quite embarrassing for the government especially when the cost of operating the IBA is said to be tens of millions of shekels lower than the new IBC.

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog saw his opportunity to call for a vote of no-confidence in the government whilst attempting to put together a new government with him as its prime minister. However, Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party has refused to join Herzog because if there were early elections, Lapid would double his seats according to all new polls.

In fact, research surveys show the Likud would receive 25 seats while Yesh Atid could acquire 24 seats. However, the former Labor Party now known as the Zionist Union would plummet from 24 to just 11 seats. Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi led by Naftali Bennett would rise from 8 to 14 while Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party would drop from 10 to 7.

The numbers are an average prediction based upon three surveys carried out in the last two weeks by Rafi Smith, Dr. Mina Tzemach and Camil Fuchs. 

Amidst the prospect of an early election, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri oddly threatened that if confrontations within the government would not end, he would pull his Shas party out of the government. But surveys show Shas would fall to 6 seats while United Torah Judaism would rise from 6 to 7.

The Arab Joint List would remain at 13, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu would remain at 6 while the far left-wing Meretz would be stable on 5 seats. Polls also showed that the yet unnamed party headed by former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon would just pass the threshold to enter the Knesset with 4 seats. According to these figures, both Netanyahu and Lapid would struggle to put together a working coalition without each other and all the signs show they would not work together because both would insist on becoming prime minister. 

The most likely scenario is, therefore, to unite the IBA with the new IBC in some form whilst relocating to their newly built studios. Some 600 out of the 1,000 IBA employees have already been told they will have a job at the new network although without the same working conditions. Efforts are now underway to find more jobs for the rest of them who do not wish to take early retirement. 

As for the decision makers heading the new government broadcast entity, attempts will be made to replace some who have what can only be defined as extreme liberal views and bias towards the government. An independent network is free to be critical and even condemn the government and in Israel, they certainly do not hold back. But a broadcasting authority that is entirely funded by the democratically elected government should not subject that government to nightly demonizing of its prime minister and Knesset members.