Live television broadcasts of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Congress on Tuesday are to be banned in Israel so as not to influence the outcome of their general election in two weeks.
Broadcasters will also have to put a five-minute delay on his speech in order to allow editors to cut out parts deemed too political.
The Telegraph report:
“Editors-in-chief of broadcast channels will watch and make sure that nothing the prime minister says can be construed as election campaigning,” Salim Joubran, head of Israel’s central election committee and a judge on the nation’s supreme court, said last month.
“Any campaigning will be omitted from the broadcast.”
Mr Joubran’s decision contradicted Yehuda Weinstein, the Israel attorney general, who recommended that the petition requesting a broadcasting ban – submitted by the main opposition Zionist Union and the Left-wing Mereetz party – be rejected.
The March 3 speech has already heightened tensions between Mr Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, who has declined to meet the Israeli leader when he visits Washington, arguing that it would amount to interference in Israel’s election.
The White House is angry that Mr Netanyahu colluded with John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, to deliver the speech without informing Mr Obama in advance.
Mr Boehner acknowledged last month that he had asked Israeli officials not to inform the Obama administration about the congressional invitation to
Mr Netanyahu before it was officially announced. A number of prominent Democrats have said they will not attend the speech, seeing it as a calculated snub to the president.
The Israeli leader made it clear that he intends to argue forcefully against the administration’s efforts to reach an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear facilities, which he says would leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state and pose a threat to Israel’s existence.
In a sign of the rift that has opened between the White House and Mr Netanyahu, US officials stopped briefing his government about the Iran talks – now at a delicate stage – because they fear he has leaked previous information to gain political advantage, Israel Channel Two television station reported.
The speech has been heavily criticised in Israel, with political opponents – including some on the Right – arguing that the prime minister is sacrificing the strategic relationship with the US for his short-term political interests. A poll conducted by Army Radio in February found that 47 per cent of Israelis wanted Mr Netanyahu to cancel the speech, compared with 34 per cent who wanted it to go ahead.
Mr Netanyahu took a noticeably hard-line on Iran on February 16 at a ceremony ushering in General Gadi Eisenkot as the new army chief-of-staff, in place of the outgoing Benny Gantz, who is retiring.
“I promise you Gadi – you will not have a single day of grace,” he said. “The Middle East is disintegrating. States are collapsing. An empire is charging into this vacuum – Iran. It aspires to acquire nuclear weapons. It is trying to encircle us with four murderous armies.
“It vows openly to destroy the state of Israel in one way or another. We will require every tool, every person, because there’s no mercy for the weak in the Middle East. Only the strong ones survive.”