Analysis: Israel's Election Ads

Election ads have begun to air nightly on Israel's state-run TV stations. Most feature negative attacks on whichever party a faction sees as its main competitor for votes on the 28th of Adar/March.

Contact Editor
Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 09:48

Here is a sample from Thursday evening’s viewing, based on the order in which the parties were shown:

Likud's ads were featured first and given the most air time due to the allotment of time based on the number of Members of Knesset a party has in its ranks. The party produced two series of ads. The first focuses on the variety of security threats Israel faces, from Kassam rockets being fired at Ben Gurion Airport to the Iranian nuclear threat. One ad places the viewer in the middle of a crowd of marching masked Hamas terrorists, with the camera pointing down to a hole in the sand rather than confront the situation. It ends with an attack on Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's response to the rise of Hamas, showing an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. In the ad regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, the terms resha Islami is used, meaning "Islamic evil." The second series of ads, seemingly focused on winning over left-of-center voters, speaks about how Ehud Olmert is not following in the path of Sharon, who was a war hero and much more conscious of Israel's security needs, whereas the highlight of Olmert’s military career was working in the IDF’s weekly magazine. The Likud ads, while decrying unilateral withdrawals, refer specifically only to retaining the Jordan Valley and a "united Jerusalem" (showing a map of Jerusalem's complete current municipal borders." Ads can bew viewed online by clicking here.

Labor's commercials vary, with one offering an extensive biography of chairman Amir Peretz and another showing hip-looking young people who "may win us an Oscar…a Nobel prize…etc." but will leave Israel unless university is paid for. "Right now, only the rich and elite can afford to go to university," the ad claims. Another ad shows Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for an increase in the minimum wage, saying "if it worked there, Amir Peretz will make it work here." Peretz is calling for a minimum wage of $1,000 a month.

Kadima's ads featured a white background with fast moving blue and red lines – similar to the colors used to delineate the route of the Partition Wall on Defense Ministry maps. The faces of Kadima members are shown for seconds at a time talking about "Sharon's way being the glue that binds us together" and explaining, "We joined Kadima at great personal sacrifice because it was the right thing to do for the country." The music in the background uses chords from the national anthem every 15 seconds or so. The recurring theme is that Kadima will take the steps to ensure that Israel has a Jewish majority, in keeping with Ariel Sharon's wishes, but without elaboration on what steps would be taken to ensure such a thing. A separate commercial attacked Amir Peretz for being a "communist," calling him "comrade Peretz," featuring Soviet graphics, and a loud refrain of Labor party MK Matan Vilnai slamming on the table and yelling, "Peretz is not a communist!"

National Religious Party/National Union
National Union chose to focus its campaign effort on the issue of the Sabbath becoming a regular work day in Israel, resulting in traditional Israelis being coerced to work on their one day of rest. The scene opens with a religious family interrupted in the middle of Sabbath meal by a deliveryman (wearing a t-shirt reading '7-day-a-week deliveries'). The deliveryman sees he has the wrong place and says "Shabbat shalom" to the family and continuing down the hall to an irate secular father who is on the phone "due to work." The deliveryman comments, "believe me, I know what that is like." National Union chairman Rabbi Benny Elon is then shown saying, "What can we do – that is the situation in Israel today – people forced to work as the Sabbath is made into an ordinary work day. We of the NU/NRP will do everything we can to make sure we don't say 'Shalom' [i.e. goodbye –ed.] to the Sabbath."

So far, the only ad featuring Shas spiritual leader, former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has been a Shinui ad featuring Ehud Olmert standing before the rabbi promising full cooperation with the Hareidi-Religious public. Shas is focusing its entire television campaign on attacking former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his economic reforms, which Shas blames for the country's economic woes. Shas chairman Eli Yishai, wearing a sharp suit, promises viewers that Shas will ensure an economic policy that eliminates poverty. Notably, no attacks on Labor party chairman Amir Peretz, who is attacking Netanyahu on the same issues, were featured in any of the Shas commercials.

Chetz, one of the splinters from the Shinui party used clay-mation to parody those protesting at Amona. Activists, depicted as sheep, were shown throwing cinder blocks, buckets of paint and burning tires at soldiers, depicted as mules. Party chairman Avraham Poraz is then shown saying that the "lawbreakers at Amona and rock-throwing Hareidim at Sabbath protests on Jerusalem's Bar Ilan street represent the singular most dangerous threat to Israeli democracy – religious zealotry." A second clay-mation depicts a rabbi as a goat disparaging a groom under the wedding canopy, saying "what do you understand – secular Jew" when told he had made a mistake in the liturgy. A third clip shows soldiers volunteering for elite units and a religious soldier asking for a deferment. "Deferment until when," asked the draft officer. "Until you have had enough!" he answers smugly. The ads can be viewed by clicking here.

Shinui's ad was partially blacked out by the election committee due to its use of Hareidi-religious minors. It features a secular-looking man on his way to the polls, being physically retrained and held back by Hareidi-Religious men and children.

The far-left Meretz party was not the only faction to feature the Western Wall in its ads, but it featured it the most prominently. The ad depicts people inserting notes in the Wall, while their voice are heard offering a prayer. "Help me afford university," says the first woman, as she inserts her note into the cracks of the Kotel. She is followed by a man with a shaved head and a yarmulke praying, "Enable me to marry Boaz [a man's name –ed.]." The ad ends with the statement, "We are all voting Meretz." The party's other series focuses solely on the advancement of the homosexual agenda, featuring two gay men in an airport engaging in comedic banter as they bicker about their various woes, including the difficulty homosexuals have adopting children in Israel.

Lieberman's proposal to withdraw from Israeli Arab population centers bordering Judea and Samaria, such as Umm el-Fahem, was not mentioned in Yisrael Beitenu's ad, but featured prominently in Arab party Hadash's ad. A man from Umm el-Fahem is shown pruning his olive tree and declaring he will not go anywhere. A second commercial shows Israeli Jews and Arabs riding a bus, while the Jews express astonishment at the Arabs' stories of discrimination and hardship.

Balad's Arabic commercials featured no Hebrew, not even Hebrew subtitles, which are universally featured in other ads using a non-Hebrew audio.

Yisrael Beitenu
The name of the Israel Our Home party is barely mentioned, but a lengthy biography of chairman Avigdor Lieberman takes up an entire ad. The ad was first featured in Hebrew with Russian subtitles and then vice versa. "Play it safe," the narrator concludes, "vote Lieberman." Another ad decries the rise of crime, showing graphs and charts about the steep rise in violent crime and corruption under the Sharon and Olmert regimes. It ends with Lieberman promising to throw criminals in prison, while a prison door slams shut.

The Herut commercial features the various members of the Herut list, including a former beauty queen, explaining that surveys show that 25% of the Israeli public wants to see the transfer of Israel's Arabs encouraged. They go on to say that Herut offers the ability to vote for that policy.

Hazit – Jewish National Front
The Hazit ad features a jingle composed by Israeli pop legend Ariel Zilber about party chairman Baruch Marzel's ability to lead, protect our loved ones, and "send away our enemies." Marzel is shown being greeted joyously by Jewish vendors in Jerusalem's Machaneh Yehuda market and Zilber is shown explaining why he is voting for Hazit.

Tzedek LaKol
The Justice For All faction, which includes the Party for the Rights of the Man in the Family, which has run in past years unsuccessfully, used half of its allotted time to speak about rights of parents to retain custody of their children without interference from the state and courts. The second half featured a spokesman calling for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into "who really murdered Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin." The man says: "To this day, I am blamed for it because of my right-wing political outlook. If such a commission were established, parties like Kadima - who we all know who its number two [Shimon Peres -ed.] is - would crumble. Let us pursue justice; which starts with the Rabin murder."

Tzomet submitted the scrolling text of a letter as their ad, decrying the corrupt nature of the over 120,000 shekels parties must pay state-run television to run the ads. The sharply worded letter ended: "We tried to contact your offices, but you were out to lunch from 1 to 2 o'clock and then, when we called back at 3 PM, you had already gone home."

Most of the ads can be viewed on the web sites of their respective parties, which are listed on the sidebar of Arutz-7's special Election Coverage 2006 site.