‘Concern’ about Israel’s new telecoms minister

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoints controversial right-winger to ministry after court blocked him from sharing role

Concern has been expressed in Israel after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a right-wing ally, Ayoob Kara, as minister for communications.

Netanyahu had been doing the job himself for a number of years, but had to give up the shared role after a court barred him because of his personal friendship with Shaul Elovitch, the chairman of the incumbent operator, Bezeq.

Another Netanyahu ally, Tzachi Hanegbi, was acting communications minister for the past three months, but has been bypassed by the latest appointment.

In an opinion piece, Israeli website Ynetnews said “this portfolio is a fire trap”. The new minister’s portfolio encompasses media as well as telecoms, including Ynetnews’s owner, Yedioth Media, which publishes a daily newspaper. “It’s his [Netanyahu’s] way of voicing his opinion about the media,” said the website.

Kara has expressed a number of controversial views – including claiming that an earthquake in Italy was divine punishment on Unesco – and will face a number of challenges in telecoms. Bezeq wants to merge its four separate operations, including internet provision, fixed and mobile telecoms and satellite TV, into one.

Meanwhile rival operators Partner Communications – formerly Orange Israel – and Cellcom want to be allowed to compete fully with Bezeq.