Netanyahu undergoes routine colonoscopy, said in good health; Deri fills in

Shas leader, whose ministerial legitimacy is being weighed by the High Court, serves as temporary acting premier while PM sedated; doctors remove two small ‘benign-looking polyps’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underwent a routine colonoscopy on Friday, with one of his top coalition partners filling in as premier while he was sedated, according to his office.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu, 73, underwent the exam at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital, during which doctors found and completely removed two small “benign-looking polyps.”

While Netanyahu was sedated his responsibilities were held by Shas leader Aryeh Deri. Netanyahu has since recovered and returned to full activities, his office said.

Deri was chosen, the statement said, due to the coalition deal inked between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Deri’s ultra-Orthodox Shas designating the latter as vice prime minister. The position is an honorary one, without legal significance, and does not signify a formal role in a prime ministerial succession.

Shas is the second-largest party in Netanyahu’s government, which he formed last week after his right-religious bloc won a majority of Knesset seats in the November 1 election. The ruling coalition also includes the Haredi United Torah Judaism party and three far-right factions.

Deri — whose legitimacy to serve in the cabinet is currently being challenged at the High Court due to his conviction and suspended sentence for tax offenses last year — will join a list of ministers who briefly served in place of Netanyahu while he underwent medical procedures and examinations over the years.

Under Israeli law, Netanyahu can select an acting prime minister of his choice when traveling overseas or is otherwise temporarily unable to perform his duties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Minister of the Interior and Health Aryeh Deri during the swearing-in ceremony of the new government at the Knesset, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, has not formally designated an acting prime minister since his second stint as premier began in 2009, and similarly refrained from doing so upon returning to office last week, setting up the potential for political chaos if he were to suddenly vacate his seat or be incapacitated.

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