Israeli TV to Broadcast Netanyahu's Congress Speech With Five-minute Delay

Due to Israel's strict election laws regarding broadcasting campaign materials, the proximity of the speech to the March 17 election could be a legally sensitive issue.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Netanyahu speaking at a previous AIPAC conference.
Netanyahu speaking at a previous AIPAC conference.Credit: AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's Central Election's Committee Declared on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech before both houses of the U.S. Congress will not be broadcast live in Israel, but rather with a five-minute delay.

The decision came in answer to a petition filed with the committee by Meretz chairman Zehava Galon and Zionist Union candidate Eldad Yaniv, claiming that Netanyahu's speech constitutes electioneering and should not be broadcast, as it will take place two weeks before the March 17 election. Israeli law has very strict guidelines for broadcasting election materials, which could have made the Netanyahu's speech legally problematic, due to its proximity to polling day.

Central Elections Committee chairman and Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran wrote in his decision that Israel's broadcast networks would be allowed to broadcast the speech, but not live. Instead, the broadcast will be conducted with a five minute delay, while broadcasters watch the live feed to ensure that Netanyahu refrains from electioneering. Joubran also noted that the decision is binding for all of Israel's broadcast outlets, including television and radio, and that the decision will be enforced.

In his statement, Joubran wrote that he decided to include Israel's attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, in the decision, who also believed that the petition to forbid broadcasting the speech should be rejected. Last week, Weinstein said that Netanyahu's speech should be broadcast for its value as news, and that it does not constitute electioneering, which would be forbidden. The attorney general wrote then that he believed the petition filed by Galon and Yaniv should be rejected. "This is the third time that Mr. Netanyahu is speaing before the American Congress," said Weinstein, adding, "his planned speech was coordinated with the Speaker of the House. The timing of the invitation was set according to the progress of the negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program, and the desire to hear Israel's stance on that issue."

In response to the petition, the attorney general wrote last week that "with regard to information possessed by the Prime Minister's Office, the intention is to summarize the principles of the framework agreement being offered by the world powers to Iran by the end of March 2015.

The prime minister's speech before the U.S. Congress in early March will allow for Israel's stance on the agreement to be conveyed to America and the rest of the world, before the final version of the agreement takes shape." Weinstein also noted that Netanyahu has been fully briefed by jurists from within the Prime Minister's Office about all of the laws and guidelines pertaining to election ads.

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