Central Elections Commission chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein ordered the Jewish Home party to remove an ad that shows party leader Naftali Bennett standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a petition filed to the commission Thursday, Likud officials argued the ad would mislead voters into thinking that voting for Bennett was like voting for Netanyahu.
The Likud’s annoyance at the ad underscores the gadfly role Bennett and his resurgent nationalist party have played. Though Bennett once served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, the two reportedly had a falling out and, in the runup to the elections, the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list has found itself losing support to Jewish Home.
The Likud claimed the ad, which features the slogan “Strong together,” was designed “to steal the minds of the right-bloc voters, mislead them and instill in their consciousness through manipulation the mendacious message of “Do not vote for [Likud-Beytenu]… We have enough votes and victory is assured.”
Jewish Home, which sits to the right of Netanyahu’s party and sees itself as a natural partner should Netanyahu try to form a hard-line government, has been campaigning on the idea that a vote for its party is a vote for Likud-Beytenu and Jewish Home, since polls show Netanyahu cruising to an easy reelection on January 22.
The Likud also claimed the campaign was designed to broadcast a false message — regarding an agreement between Netanyahu and Bennett — to include Jewish Home in the next government coalition. The Likud denies such an agreement.
A Jewish Home representative said the ad is intended to convey the message that the party intends to work together with Netanyahu toward a stronger Israel.
Rubinstein said, in his ruling, that the ad was ordered to be removed because it could create the mistaken impression that the two parties are running together, or that they have some sort of agreement.