Crisis of votes faces coalition over Cultural Loyalty Bill

The coalition may face an embarrassment at the Knesset’s plenum on Monday as its slim majority is tested.  

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition may be facing a political crisis ahead of a vote on Monday on the Cultural Loyalty Bill, which would allow the government to pull funding from organizations or events featuring content deemed harmful to the State of Israel.

The new bill is, in fact, an amendment to the Culture and Art Law, according to which the minister could withhold public funding to organizations “working against the principles of the state.”

The transgressions deserving of defunding include: denial that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement to racism, violence or terrorism; support for the armed struggle or acts of terrorism against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group; marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; or any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol.

The bill passed its first reading earlier this month with a majority of 55 Members of Knesset voting in favor and 44 objecting. It will face it second and third readings on Monday

MK Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party recently quit the government, leaving it a slim majority of 61 seats. Lawmakers Benny Begin (Likud) and Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) of the coalition announced they will not support the bill, leaving the opposition with the possibility to shoot it down if all its members show up for the vote.

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Yisrael Beytenu is conditioning its support for the bill on the coalition’s backing of another bill calling for the death penalty for terrorists, which they proposed while still in the coalition.

Anticipating the pending crisis, Minister of Culture ad Sports Miri Regev, who initiated the Cultural Loyalty Bill, called on Liberman on Sunday to vote in favor of the legislation, telling him “not to vote with [Israeli-Arab MK] Ahmed Tibi.”

Saying the public will “not forgive” him if he fails to support the bill, Regev reminded Liberman that as a former defense minister, he knows “that toppling this law will be a reward for terrorism.”

“It’s not a matter of right and left. I call you and believe that at the end of the day you will vote for the Law of Loyalty in Culture because it is right and just and it is time that it becomes part of the law of the State of Israel,” Regev stated.