The Minister of Communications refused to reform “kosher phones”.

New Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said after a meeting with party faction leaders on Tuesday haredihe said he would reverse previous government reforms aimed at integrating ultra-Orthodox consumers into the mobile phone market.

These reforms targeted the “kosher” phones used by many members of the ultra-Orthodox community who do not want unfiltered Internet access. Kosher phones do not have features such as web browsers and messaging apps. They are offered at a lower cost because they are used only six days a week and their phone numbers are dialed to distinguish them from the numbers associated with regular smartphones.

Karhi’s predecessor, Yoaz Hendel, introduced a reform that allowed kosher phone owners to keep their personal phone numbers when switching operators, and also passed rules so that SIM cards used in kosher phones could also be used in regular phones.

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If the previous rules were changed, it would invalidate a user’s kosher phone plan.

The reforms were strongly opposed by lawmakers harediHandel, who claims that he is trying to introduce a more modern lifestyle to the ultra-Orthodox community. This led to several mass riots by extremists harediwho set fire to electronics stores in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak selling ordinary cell phones.

In a statement announcing the withdrawal from Handel’s reforms, Karhi emphasized his determination to engage in “respectful” dialogue with ultra-Orthodox political leaders, as opposed to his predecessor’s attempt to “force a lifestyle change on any community.”

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel visits the Gush Etzion Antiquities Museum on December 8, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

The reversal is the latest example of Israel’s new far-right and ultra-Orthodox-dominated government reversing reforms adopted by a previous government that the community opposed. haredi.

On Sunday, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told ministry officials to roll back tax increases on single-use plastics and sugary drinks, staples in many households. haredi.

In his meeting with United Torah Judaism’s Yitzhak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni, as well as Shas President Aryeh Deri, Karhi also discussed efforts to phase out 2G and 3G devices to make room for more base stations for 4G and 4G. 5G.

Handel’s reforms called for the shutdown of 2G and 3G services starting this week, which could cause problems for kosher phones that rely mostly on these low-bandwidth networks.

Karhi said the transition to 4G and 5G would continue, but the shutdown of 2G and 3G devices would be delayed by six months to give ultra-Orthodox users more time to make the switch.

“I intend to cancel this change in the near future. To implement this policy, I plan to appoint Elad Malka as the new director general of the ministry. »

New Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi arrives for a group photo of the new government at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem on December 29, 2022. (Yonathan Sindel/Flash90)

Malka previously expressed his support for the privatization of Israel’s public broadcaster Kan and even the closure of the Ministry of Communications.

in a published column Makor Rishon last month, “Close the public channel? Malka said that Khan’s problem is not his budget, but “he is destroying the private market”.

Malka is the founder of the lobby group Our Interest – Your Lobby, which calls for more competitive markets in the Knesset. Before that, he was the head of Israel’s Media Watch, which investigates media policies. He was also a member of the Jerusalem council and is considered a liberal in Likud ranks.

The new communications minister also said he would put forward plans to “move the communications market towards a free and competitive market”.

Karhi said last month that he supported the closure of the news units of Israel’s public broadcaster Kan and Ordu Radio.

“Television should cover everything. We need to allow the different voices that make us who we are to be heard. “There are still voices that are not heard enough in the Israeli media,” said Karhi.

He added that he intends to “strengthen the expansion of the Jewish presence” in the West Bank. “For this, we need to provide them with infrastructure. »

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