Citing war, petitioners seek to force PM to reveal his health status, succession plan

Survivors of massacre, MK and others turn to High Court, say Netanyahu hasn’t been transparent about his well-being, allege he’s shown worrying signs, including ‘drooping eyelids’

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a cadets graduation ceremony at the IDF's officers school in southern Israel, known as Bahad 1, March 7, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a cadets graduation ceremony at the IDF's officers school in southern Israel, known as Bahad 1, March 7, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

A group of October 7 massacre survivors, medical professionals, scientists and a Knesset member have asked the High Court to compel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to share a detailed health report and name a replacement should he be incapacitated, amid persistent rumors surrounding the premier’s well-being.

A petition, submitted on March 3, names Netanyahu, his office, the Israeli government and the attorney general, and claims that the premier has not followed protocols requiring him to reveal his physical and mental health for years.

Netanyahu, 74, had not published an annual health report from 2016 to 2023 when he received a clean bill of health. However, the petitioners argue that the letters released by Netanyahu’s general practitioner and cardiologist are far too general and “say more by what they don’t say than what they do.”

“Both letters are formulated in very general terms and are devoid of the information that the public deserves,” the petition states.

“They should mention when the prime minster last had checkups, what tests were done and their results, whether he suffers from any chronic illnesses or conditions, and whether he regularly takes medications — including for psychiatric or sleep reasons,” it continued.

The prime minister’s health has been under scrutiny since July, when he underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker following a fainting spell at his home in Caesarea. It was only after the surgery that Netanyahu’s chronic heart condition, dubbed “transient heart block,” was revealed to the public.

Netanyahu had not revealed that he had fainted before the heart monitor was implanted, nor that he had a history of cardiac electrical conduction problems.

Police gather outside the emergency entrance to the Sheba Medical Centre in Ramat Gan after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hospitalized, July 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

In October 2022, Netanyahu felt unwell during prayers toward the end of Yom Kippur and underwent a series of tests at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, which reportedly came back normal.

His health was back in the headlines last week when his office announced that he had come down with a bout of flu, forcing him to cancel meetings related to the running of the war in Gaza.

Protocols for the disclosure of the prime minister’s health were developed by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2010, but are not enshrined in law.

The petitioners, which include Labor MK Naama Lazimi and relatives of victims of the October 7 Hamas massacre, argue that with Israel currently in a serious crisis, it is paramount for Netanyahu to be transparent and appoint an acting deputy should he be unable to perform his duties.

An ambulance outside the emergency entrance to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on July 15, 2023, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hospitalized. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The petitioners allege that the premier has displayed a number of concerning behaviors pointing to health problems that have not been disclosed to the public. Among them are “the drooping of his eyelids, rigidity, significant swelling of the right side of his face, and dark spots on his forehead and other areas of his face.”

They also note a “bump” under the leg of the prime minister’s trousers which could indicate that he wears some kind of medical device he has not told the public about.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, prepare to board a plane for the US early Monday, September 18, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

The petition mentions several instances in which Netanyahu’s right arm appeared “frozen” or unusual. They accuse him of trying to hide this, and his wife Sara of holding his arm to do the same as she stood next to him. In addition, it mentions a video showing Netanyahu appearing to nod off while standing up at a morning-hour pre-IDF yeshiva ceremony.

The document also claims “circumstantial or indirect testimonies” that the prime minister was “mentally paralyzed” at certain points on October 7.

“The higher a person is in office, the more responsibility they have. As a result, they must be accountable for being transparent about their health status. The hiding of information, the lying about one’s real health situation, or the reluctance to share could lead to disaster in a time of peace, and certainly in a time of war,” the petition said.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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