Israel’s Netanyahu fitted with pacemaker ahead of key vote

Israeli prime minister says he feels ‘great’ and expects to be released in time for a key vote on his judicial changes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Monday, July 17, 2023.
Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on July 17, 2023 [Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool via Reuters]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “doing excellently” after surgery to fit a pacemaker ahead of a key parliamentary vote on his controversial judicial overhaul plan.

Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday that the 73-year-old leader would be discharged on Monday.

Thanking well-wishers and the team that treated him in hospital, Netanyahu said in a video statement: “As you can see, I am doing excellently.”

“We are pursuing efforts to complete the legislation, as well as efforts to do this through consensus, but in any event, I want you to know that tomorrow morning I’ll be joining my colleagues in the Knesset,” he said, referring to Monday’s vote in the Israeli parliament.

In the video, Netanyahu said that he was outfitted with a monitor after last week’s hospitalisation and that when an alarm beeped late on Saturday, it meant he required a pacemaker right away.

“I feel great, but I need to listen to my doctors,” he said.

The surgery comes a week after Netanyahu was hospitalised for what was described as dehydration.

It also came after a tumultuous day that saw some of the largest protests to date against his judicial changes.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Israel on Saturday night, while thousands marched into Jerusalem and camped out near the Knesset, or parliament, ahead of the final vote over the key “reasonability” clause through which judges can strike down government decisions.

Professor Roy Beinart, senior physician and director at the Davidai Arrhythmia Center at Sheba Medical Center’s Heart Institute, said doctors had decided to monitor Netanyahu because he had suffered from a “conduction disorder,” or irregular heartbeat, for years.

He said in a video that the prime minister needed the pacemaker because he experienced “a temporary arrhythmia,” or irregular heartbeat, Saturday evening.

“The implantation went smoothly, without any complications. He is not in a life-threatening condition,” Beinart said. “He feels great and is returning to his daily routine.”

A pacemaker is used when a patient’s heart is beating too slowly. It can also be used to treat heart failure.

By sending electrical pulses to the heart, the device increases or maintains a person’s heartbeat at a normal rhythm, allowing the heart to pump blood to the body at a normal rate.

According to the prime minister’s office, scheduled trips to Turkey and Cyprus this week have been postponed because of Netanyahu’s medical condition, but no new dates have yet been fixed.

Monday will see the beginning of voting in parliament to ratify the first package of reforms in Netanyahu’s highly contested judicial overhaul, which has ignited months of nationwide protests and concern abroad for Israel’s democracy.

Critics fear the judicial changes aim to curb court independence by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption which he denies. But the Israeli leader, who is in his record sixth term as prime minister, says the reforms would balance out branches of government.

Washington has urged Netanyahu to seek broad agreements over any judicial reforms.

Source: News Agencies