Israeli lawmakers approved in a preliminary vote a bill that would shut down a free Israeli daily owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
The vote on the bill intended to shut down the Israel Hayom newspaper passed its first reading by a vote of 43 to 23. There are 120 lawmakers in the Knesset.
The bill, sponsored by Labor party lawmaker Eitan Cabel, now goes to the Knesset House Committee, where it will be sent to another Knesset committee to be refined for the second and third Knesset plenum votes.
While the bill targets all newspapers that are distributed for free, it has been clear its intent is to close down the Adelson-owned newspaper, which is known as a shill for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The bill would make it illegal to distribute a full-size newspaper six days a week free of charge.
“This is a bill in favor of pluralism and multiple opinions. It is a battle so that, in a few years, we do not become a country with only one newspaper. Sheldon Adelson wants to bury a market that is fighting for its life,” Cabel told the lawmakers. “Israel Hayom does not exist because of its success as a newspaper, but because of the hundreds of millions in gambling funds that are funneled to it from overseas. Does anyone in this room honestly think that this is how a model for a normal newspaper looks? That this is how fair competition looks?”
“What is this? Since when do parliaments close newspapers? Are we bolsheviks?” said Likud party Moshe Feiglin, who has been the object of significant criticism in the newspaper.