Judge rules Netanyahu campaign speech can only be broadcast with delay
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Judge rules Netanyahu campaign speech can only be broadcast with delay

News channel editors must wait 10 minutes to ensure no electioneering in Monday night address, after Labor petition; PM complains ‘leftist propaganda’ is broadcast every day

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Illustrative: An Israeli man watches Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a speech on television screens at a shop in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2009. (AP/Bernat Armangue/File)
Illustrative: An Israeli man watches Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a speech on television screens at a shop in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2009. (AP/Bernat Armangue/File)

The chairman of the Central Elections Committee ruled Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech launching his Likud party’s election campaign can only be broadcast with a 10-minute delay, to insure that no election propaganda is featured during the event.

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer’s ruling came about an hour before Netanyahu was set to deliver the speech to party faithful at 8 p.m. on Monday.

The decision, following a petition from the Labor party, will apply to Channel 12, Channel 13, and the Kan public broadcaster.

“Broadcasters may transmit the speech in a 10-minute delay, during which the chief editors or senior editors on their behalf will view [the speech] and ensure that there is no propaganda in the prime minister’s words,” Melcer wrote in a statement.

Melcer added that should any form of election propaganda be conveyed during the speech, editors must refrain from broadcasting them.

The Labor party had petitioned to prevent live coverage of the speech on prime time TV, arguing that it violates the law which prohibits election propaganda on TV in the 60 days before the vote, apart from specially designated time slots.

The speech is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., at the top of Israel’s prime time news casts and Netanyahu’s preferred slot for delivering major addresses.

While Labor’s petition called to disallow the broadcasting of the entire speech for fear of potential election propaganda, Melcer stressed that he would allow for the address to be transmitted due to its “newsworthy value.”

Responding to the decision, Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that, “Every evening the leftist propaganda channels give a full platform to the left-wing [Blue and White] party of [Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz. Only in the case of the Likud is it ‘election propaganda.'”

The prime minister encouraged Israelis to watch the speech “without delay and without censorship” via his Facebook page.

Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer at a press conference at the Knesset, Jerusalem, February 7, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

In a last-ditch attempt to broadcast the speech live, Channel 13 filed a challenge to the decision but it was unclear whether Melcer would consider the request in time.

With the Likud falling narrowly behind Blue and White in public opinion polls for the first time, Netanyahu is expected to unveil a new phase of the election campaign that will draw heavily from the attacks on Gantz featured thus far in Likud ads.

Netanyahu is also expected to use the speech to make his case for reelection amid potential criminal charges, speaking just four days after the attorney general announced his intention to file criminal proceedings against him, in a move that has placed a question mark over the premier’s bid to stay in power.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday that Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including bribery in the far-reaching Bezeq corruption probe, pending a hearing.

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