Olmert makes dramatic announcement
Photo: GPO
Photo: Vardi Kahane
Dr. Suzie Navot
Photo: Vardi Kahane

Can an ailing prime minister hold office?

Was Olmert obligated to disclose his medical condition? Will he be able to stay in office? What happens if he is unable to perform his duties? Ynet answers some burning questions

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement Monday, that he has been diagnosed with stage T1 prostate cancer, raised the obvious political question: Will he be able to continue performing his duties as prime minister?


This question echoes some of the political arena's lessons, learned after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hospitalization in January 2006, and the questions regarding the succession of office that followed.


Is the prime minister legally obligated to keep the public informed about his health? The prime minister is under no legal obligation to disclose his medical condition, and the Knesset has yet to pass the pending bill calling for such an obligation to be instated.


The main reason for not keeping the public informed of such things is, of course, the prime minister's right to both privacy and medical confidentiality. On the other hand, many say that the PM's health has a direct bearing on his ability to perform his duties and therefore the public must be informed.


Israeli prime ministers have been known to inform the public of their health status – both Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu did so.


What happens if the prime minister is unable to perform his duties?


According to Basic Law: The Government, section 16b, should a prime minister be declared temporarily unable to hold office, the vice prime minister becomes acting prime minister. In this case, that would be Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.


When and how is a prime minister declared 'temporarily unable to hold office'?


Israeli law doesn't offer a clear-cut answer as to who determines that or under what circumstances.


For how long can a prime minister be 'temporarily unable to hold office'?


Should the prime minister not resume his ministerial duties within 100 days, he would be declares 'permanently unable to perform his duties.'


What happens then?


According to Basic Law: The Government, section 20b, in the 101st day and after the prime minister has been declared 'permanently unable to perform his duties' the government is considered to have resigned and the president must assign one of the members of the Knesset with the task of forming a new government.


Can the acting prime minister perform all of the prime minister's duties?


The acting prime minister will be, for all intents and purposes, the prime minister of Israel and will assume all of the relevant duties.  


פרסום ראשון: 10.29.07, 13:28
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