The chairman of the Central Elections Committee ruled Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech before the US Congress on March 3 can only be broadcast in Israel with a 5-minute delay, to assure that no election propaganda is featured during the event.
Netanyahu’s speech is set to take place only two weeks before the Israeli elections on March 17.
“Broadcasters may transmit the speech in a 5-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,” Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran wrote in a statement. Joubran added that should any form of election propaganda be conveyed during the speech, editors must refrain from broadcasting them.
Joubran’s ruling, which came following a petition by Meretz Chairperson Zahava Gal-on and Zionist Union candidate Eldad Yaniv, will apply to Channel 2, Channel 10, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
While Gal-on and Yaniv’s petition called to disallow the broadcasting of the entire speech for fear of potential election propaganda, Joubran stressed that he would allow for the address to be transmitted due to its “newsworthy value,” according to the Ynet news site.
Netanyahu last month accepted an invitation from Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to speak to Congress, although Boehner had not cleared the invitation with President Barack Obama or Democrats in Congress. Netanyahu is expected to rebut Obama’s contention that nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers are constructive.
Boehner on Sunday said he invited Netanyahu to address Congress without White House approval in order to avoid “interference,” and accused the Obama administration of “animosity” against the Israeli leader.
Obama, a Democrat, has refused to meet Netanyahu during his Washington trip next month, saying diplomatic protocol forbids him from doing so, since the Israeli leader is up for reelection on March 17.
The two leaders have had a famously frosty relationship, which has grown even more tense as a result of the disagreement over Netanyahu’s upcoming speech.
Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.
Netanyahu has vowed — despite the presidential snub and pushback from Congressional Democrats — to deliver his speech to Congress as negotiators work toward the political outline of a deal by March 31.
The cut-off point for the technical details of a comprehensive accord is June 30.
JTA and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.