Deal struck in broadcast channel row that threatened snap Israeli polls

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he had reached an agreement with his finance minister in a long-simmering dispute over a new public broadcast corporation that had raised the possibility of snap polls.

Netanyahu said in a statement after a series of meetings with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that he “believes that the crisis is over.”

A compromise was said to have been reached between them that would allow the new corporation to move forward as planned, while including a series of changes sought by Netanyahu.

Despite initially backing it, Netanyahu has since opposed the creation of the new broadcaster, with his allies suggesting it would cede too much control from government.

Kahlon, whose Kulanu party forms a crucial part of Netanyahu’s coalition with 10 seats in parliament, is committed to reforming Israel’s public broadcasting.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu reportedly threatened to dissolve the government unless the new broadcasting corporation was derailed before its scheduled start on April 30.

Some media suggested Netanyahu had deliberately triggered the cabinet crisis as a way to deflect attention from a long-running investigation into alleged corruption that has seen him questioned several times by police in recent weeks.

Netanyahu’s current coalition is seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history. His Likud party controls 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, while the coalition holds a six-seat majority.

The new corporation is officially meant to revigorate Israeli public broadcasting in an age when private channels have an increasing share of viewers.

But it is also expected to lead to layoffs in Israel’s existing public broadcasting service, something Netanyahu has used to attack the plan.

Culture Minister Miri Regev last year said it would be “inconceivable to establish a company that we wouldn’t control. What’s in it for us?”