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Israel's three cable TV companies will be merged even if the antitrust commissioner objects, Knesset Economics Committee chairman Avraham Poraz told today.

Poraz said that amendments being introduced to the Telecommunications Law will pave the way for the cable companies to merge.

Israel's three cable companies - Matav Cable Systems Media (Nasdaq:MATV), Tevel and Golden Channels had split up the territory of Israel between them. They did not compete, but each laid cable to the regions under its control. Now they want to merge ahead of seeking licensing to provide domestic communications services, including Internet, over their infrastructure.

Their merger is however contingent on the approval of the Antitrust Authority. There are fears that commissioner Dror Strum will withhold approval even after enactment of the amended Telecommunications Law. Poraz clarifies that in such case, the Knesset will provide the cable companies with temporary permits allowing them to provide certain stipulated services, enabling them to merge.

"The commissioner is powerful in the absence of law, but the law can circumvent the problem," Poraz said.

Poraz did clarify that he would rather obtain antitrust approval first, before the legislative amendment is completed. Poraz and Strum will be meeting shortly to try to iron out the difficulties.

Poraz has a legislative proposal for the amendment that he plans to table for voting as soon as the Passover recess is over. He believes the amendment can pass a vote in the Knesset by the end of May.