Cultural Loyalty Bill hits roadblock: Knesset vote pulled at last moment

A Knesset vote on the Cultural Loyalty Bill scheduled for Monday was cancelled due to wavering support. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

A vote on the Cultural Loyalty Bill, which had been scheduled for a Knesset vote today, was cancelled by the Netanyahu government at the last minute when it became clear the votes weren’t there.

Warning signs that the bill was in trouble began yesterday and in particular last night when Kulanu Party Chairman Moshe Kahlon gave party MKs the go-ahead to vote as they pleased on the bill, freeing MK Rachel Azaria, who opposed the bill, to vote against it.

Yesterday, Azaria had called for the bill to be pulled, saying “The Loyalty Law injects politics deep into the culture and in its current form is liable to damage it. After the first reading, I made efforts to create quality changes in the law but didn’t succeed, and there is still too much power in the law given to the minister of culture.”

Azaria had  voted for the loyalty bill on its first reading Nov. 5, but noted at the at the time that she wanted to see changes.

Opposition members of the Knesset praised Kahlon’s decision.

Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) Party members Ofer Shelah and Meir Cohen said Sunday night: “This decision proves what we’ve been saying all during our long struggle against this terrible and excessive bill: This is a bill that the minister of culture tries to force on the coalition, and the members of Knesset with a conscience and the opposition together are against it,” Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.

The bill started taking on water earlier Sunday when Yisrael Beiteinu Party leader Avigdor Liberman declared that he would only support the loyalty bill in exchange for support for legislation his party introduced that would make it easier to impose the death penalty on convicted terrorists.

Even from within the Likud Party voices against the bill were raised. MK Benny Begin announced yesterday he wouldn’t vote for the bill either, saying it would damage freedom of expression.

Regev unleashes

The bill’s sponsor, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, let loose on Monday following the cancelled vote, criticizing Kahlon and Liberman.

“For years, Finance Minister Kahlon has run away from his responsibility,” Regev said at the Knesset, “He OK’d the continuation of funding for plays and shows that glorify terrorists with blood on their hands.”

Of Liberman, she said, he “came to vote against the Cultural Loyalty Bill, together with Ahmad Tibi and Tamar Zandberg. Imagine that Liberman, together with Tibi and Tamar Zandberg, are transferring money to the terrorists – supporting terror.”

Ahmad Tibi is an Arab member of Knesset and Tamar Zandberg leads the far left-wing Meretz Party.

The Cultural Loyalty Bill, if passed, would give the minister of culture and sport the power to withhold government funding from artistic projects deemed anti-Israel.