Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ran Wednesday’s security cabinet meeting due to the illness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the premier’s sudden trip to the hospital the previous night returned to the national agenda the issue of succession.
Netanyahu, 68, was rushed to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem after suffering from a high fever and bad cough. Security cabinet ministers were sent a message by the cabinet secretary on Tuesday night that the meeting would not be canceled, but that Liberman would run it if the prime minister could not come. Netanyahu was released from the hospital before midnight and was ordered by doctors to rest.Unlike former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who was automatically replaced by his vice prime minister Ehud Olmert when he lost consciousness following a stroke, Netanyahu has purposely not appointed any stand-in out of fear that he would be undermined.Instead, Netanyahu appoints an interim prime minister every time he leaves the country. Likud ministers Israel Katz, Gilad Erdan, Yuval Steinitz, Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin and Miri Regev have all received that largely ceremonial title.Netanyahu does not have to be replaced when he goes to the hospital unless he is sedated. It became clear on Tuesday night that he would not undergo any medical tests that require sedation.But there was a brief confusion among Likud ministers who did not know what would happen.One said he knew that as long as the prime minister was conscious an interim prime minister was not needed.“X-rays do not prevent the prime minister from making decisions,” another minister said, but others were not so sure.The law states that if Netanyahu becomes incapacitated without appointing an interim prime minister, the cabinet secretary would convene ministers to vote one in.Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli and Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern have proposed bills requiring the appointment of a standing vice prime minister, but the legislation has not passed.Liberman wished Netanyahu a speedy recovery on Twitter, saying that he hopes that the prime minister is all better before Friday’s Passover Seder “so that we can eat a lot of haroset and even a little a bit of maror!” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted: Wishing the dear head of our government a speedy recovery...the State of Israel needs you very strong.”Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay said he hoped Netanyahu would be home in time for the start of Passover.“I wish for the prime minister to return and have a [Passover] Seder at home, with his family, and in full health,” said Gabbay.Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid similarly wished Netanyahu a speedy recovery on the social network, adding that he hopes the prime minister’s family has a happy holiday.Shoshana Kranish contributed to this report.
High-fevered Netanyahu released from hospital, March 27, 2018 (Reuters)