Attorney General: PM's Congress Speech Doesn't Qualify as Electioneering

No justification for prohibiting Netanyahu's controversial upcoming address, says Yehuda Weinstein.

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Emil Salman
Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said there is no justification for prohibiting, as forbidden election advertising, the broadcast in Israel of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to the U.S. Congress next month.

Weinstein was responding in writing to a request submitted by Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon and Zionist Union activist Eldad Yaniv to the Central Elections Committee. Galon and Yaniv argued that the speech, which will focus on the international negotiations to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, falls in the category of prohibited electioneering immediately before an election. Netanyahu is to address Congress on March 3, exactly two weeks before Election Day. Weinstein recommended the rejection of the petition.

In his response, Weinstein wrote that according to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu intends in his address to summarize the main provisions of the proposal the six world powers will be offering to Iran by the end of March.

“Therefore, the prime minister’s address to the American Congress in early March will allow him to present to the United States, and through it to the world, Israel’s interest in all concerning the planned agreement before the principles of the agreement’s outline are agreed upon,” Weinstein wrote.

His answer stated further: “In the opinion of the attorney general, the request to issue the aforementioned restraining order should be turned down since this is a clearly newsworthy event with a dominant effect in terms of news and current affairs. Therefore, looking toward the future and before the speech is given, the giving of the speech should not be seen as having been planned for the sake of elections advertising for which there is an a priori basis to prevent it from being broadcast.”

Weinstein added: “The substance of this speech is linked directly to the prime minister’s task, so we cannot say of it a priori that it could be included in the prohibition on elections advertising that falls outside the campaign broadcasts.” He also noted that before his trip, the prime minister received specific legal guidance from his office’s legal bureau about the guidelines and prohibitions pertinent to the elections.