Elections Committee rules Netanyahu's Congress speech can be aired after editing for electioneering

Committee rules that speech will be edited for possible electioneering.

February 16, 2015 15:09
1 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to both houses of the US Congress next month must be aired on Israeli television with a five-minute delay in order to edit out possible electioneering, Central Election Committee chairman Justice Salim Joubran ruled Monday.

Joubran’s ruling came in response to petitions by Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On and Zionist Union campaign adviser Eldad Yaniv to ban the speech from being broadcast at all, on grounds that it would constitute illegal election campaigning.

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Netanyahu’s attorneys responded last week that the speech was US Speaker of the House John Boehner’s initiative, not the Likud campaign’s.

In addition, the lawyers said, the speech is newsworthy and in the public’s interest to see the speech, “especially... in light of repeated reports of an agreement in principle that is being formed at this time and could be signed soon.”

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein agreed with Netanyahu’s lawyers, saying the broadcast is valid news reporting.

Joubran decided that the speech must be broadcast with a five-minute delay, during which senior editors of each news source will watch and decide whether the prime minister’s words constitute election campaigning. If the editors decide Netanyahu is electioneering, they must edit out his words.

The judge also ordered the Second Authority for Television and Radio to make sure that the channels under its supervision follow his instructions.

Gal-On said Joubran’s decision shows that Netanyahu’s speech could be illegal electioneering.

“This speech is damaging to Israel-US relations, and it is clear to all that it should not happen,” she stated. “I hope that in real time, when Netanyahu ascends the podium, the media will know to stop [broadcasting] his words on time.”

Yaniv expressed satisfaction with Joubran’s decision, saying the judge “did not bow his head to Bibi [Netanyahu] and ruled according to logic and the truth that we all know: Netanyahu’s speech to Congress could be a propaganda show and therefore will not be aired live.”

The Likud’s spokesman said that the five-minute delay is a technical, irrelevant matter.

“The central issue, which is most important and significant, is stopping Iran’s attempts to rush toward nuclear weapons that will threaten Israel, the region and Europe,” the party stated. “That is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to speak before the American Congress.”

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