Report: No Vote Monday on Culture Loyalty Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

The government will hold off on a final vote on the Culture Loyalty Law, which had been set to be taken in the Knesset Monday afternoon, sources said. The reason: The lack of a committed majority to vote the bill into law. The decision is an indication of just how difficult it will be to keep the government going, with a majority of just 61 MKs, coalition sources told Hadashot News.

With the exit of Yisrael Beytenu from the coalition, party head Avigdor Liberman said that he would not vote for the bill unless the government passed his law expanding the possibility of a death penalty sentence for terrorists. In addition, Moshe Kahlon said he would give members of his Kulanu party free reign to vote their consciences on the law, and several have said that they will vote against it. As a result, the law will not be brought up for a vote Monday, Israeli media reported Monday morning.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who has been pushing the bill, will make a statement about it later Monday, her office said.

The Culture Loyalty bill allows the government to take away money from budgets of cultural institutions that act against the interests of the state. The bill, which has garnered much criticism, passed its first reading in the Knesset earlier this month. The heads of many of the cultural institutions affected by the bill have signed petitions and held protests against it, and have pledged to ignore the law’s strictures.

Regev said last week that Liberman had promised her that he would support the bill, but had backtracked. On Sunday, she said in a statement that she wanted to bring the bill up for a vote Monday, and that she was counting on Liberman’s vote. “I cannot believe that he will vote with Ahmed Tibi against it,” she said.

Last week, Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria said she would buck coalition discipline and vote against it, or at least abstain. If all other members of the coalition vote in favor of it, that would mean 58 MKs voting in favor (several MKs are sick or abroad) – which might be enough. However, with the freedom of vote Kahlon announced, it’s possible that other Kulanu MKs will vote against it – and rather than take a chance, the government has apparently decided to hold off on a vote, as the opposition has promised that every MK will be on hand to vote against it.

According to Hadashot News, even with all the Kulanu MKs other than Azaria voting for it, the tally would be 58 in favor and 58 against – too risky for a vote, the government decided at a meeting Sunday, the report said. Walla News reported that the opposition had filed 209 questions about the law – each of which would have to be voted upon by the Knesset, and each of which the coalition would have to round up a majority for – a “near impossible task,” the report quoted coalition officials as saying.