For a few hours from late Saturday night Aug. 10, 2013 to Sunday morning, Aug. 11, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handed over his powers to his Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon while he underwent and recovered from hernia surgery. Netanyahu, 63 was released from the hospital on Sunday around noon and his authority was returned. Although, the weekly cabinet meeting was cancelled, the ministerial committee on prisoners’ affairs continued to give final approval to release the first batch of Palestinian prisoners in time for the peace talks that are set to resume on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.
On Saturday evening, Netanyahu experienced abdominal pain and was examined by both his personal physician Tzvika Berkovich and then surgeon Prof. Aryeh Durst, who advised that he undergo at CT scan to confirm the exact cause. The scan showed the Prime Minister had an umbilical hernia, and it was necessary for him to be operated on immediately.
The Prime Minister’s Office released the news, and kept the public updated on their website and social media sites as to what was happening with Netanyahu through to the time he assumed his powers again.
The Prime Minister had the surgery at Hadassah Hospital-Ein Kerem in Jerusalem and was operated by the surgical team led by Surgery Department Chief Prof. Aviram Nissan and Prof. Durst.Netanyahu was not fully incapacitated; he walked into the operating room and out after the procedure was complete. The surgeons wanted to just use a local anesthetic during the surgery, and first attempted to do so; however the situation required a general anesthesia. The surgery commenced at 2:30 a.m., and lasted an hour and the recovery was two hours.
The situation was so sudden that neither his wife, Sara or his children were at the hospital during the operation, only coming after, while Netanyahu was recovering.
Netanyahu’s surgery required that he transfer his authority and powers as Prime Minister to a cabinet minister. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was chosen. Cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit contacted all cabinet ministers by phone to approve the transfer of powers and the choice of Ya’alon to fill in.
Ya’alon assumed authority as the acting prime minister when Netanyahu was put under general anesthetic, and had those powers for nearly eight hours. The weekly cabinet meeting was cancelled in light of the surgery; however the ministerial committee on prisoners’ affairs that was supposed to approve and chose the first batch of Palestinian prisoners to be released met later on Sunday evening with Ya’alon at the helm instead.
The second round of peace talks meetings and the first serious negotiations are set to begin on Wednesday, Aug. 14 in Jerusalem. The prisoner release was a precondition to the talks beginning and could not be postponed. The 26 pre-Oslo Accords prisoners chosen in this batch have to be released prior to the Wednesday meeting. After their names are made public, The prisoners’ release will be delayed for 48 hours for the families of their victims to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court. If the appeals fail, the prisoners will be released on Tuesday evening.
After the surgery, Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital director Yuval Weiss issued a statement saying; “About three hours ago, PM Netanyahu underwent hernia repair surgery. The surgery took about an hour, as planned, and was performed under general anesthesia. After surgery, the Prime Minister was transferred to the recovery room. The Prime Minister’s condition is good and he is fully conscious. The Prime Minister will probably be discharged later today.” Dr. Weiss also explained what may have caused the hernia; “Either he carried something heavy or sneezed or it was waiting to happen.”
Around noon on Sunday, Dr. Weiss examined Netanyahu, and cleared the Prime Minister to reassume his powers. Dr. Weiss phoned cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit notifying him of this, and that was when Ya’alon was relieved of his temporary position. Netanyahu was released soon after.
When he left the hospital, Netanyahu thanked everyone for their well wishes saying; “Thank you all. I feel very good.” In a released statement the Prime Minister additionally said; “I would like to thank the professional and dedicated medical staff that took care of me, and all citizens who took an interest in my well-being. I continue to constantly see to your peace and security.”
Netanyahu will recuperate and work from home for the next two days, until resuming work at his Jerusalem office. The Prime Minister is postponing his Monday meeting with United States special envoy Martin Indyk to discuss the upcoming round of peace talk meetings, and his other engagements including his meetings with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and a U.S. Republican Congressional delegation visiting Israel will be rescheduled. For the meanwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu is focusing on getting better and back to 100 percent.
- PM Benjamin Netanyahu to Undergo Surgery Overnight, August 10, 2013
- PM Benjamin Netanyahu Discharged from Hospital, August 11, 2013
- Full Authority Restored to PM Benjamin Netanyahu, August 11, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.