The Central Elections Commission head said Friday that it is illegal to post anonymous political advertisements on the Internet.
Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, the committee’s chairman, decided that the election laws’ propaganda rules regarding the prohibition of anonymous political attack ads in newspapers and bulletins also extend to the Internet.
An anonymous political attack ad is defined as one which does not cite its sponsorship.
According to Israel Radio, Rubinstein’s decision came after the Jewish Home party filed a complaint with the elections commission against Facebook and the Likud-Beytenu faction for publishing ads that anonymously attacked its party leader Naftali Bennett.
Facebook reportedly informed Rubinstein that it had removed the ads while Likud-Beytenu was given until Sunday to declare whether it was behind the ads — and if it is, he will ask the faction to commit to refraining from publishing anonymous political material on the Internet.
In a separate incident this week, Likud member Moshe Ifergan published an ad laden with Holocaust imagery in which he attacked Bennett and then refused a request to remove it from a website, causing him to be expelled from his party.
That ad called on religious voters to vote for the Likud and influence policy from within the ruling party, rather than opt for the far-right Jewish Home and thus weaken the Likud’s Knesset presence. It featured a grainy black-and-white picture of Bennett behind barbed wire next to the words “60 years!” and a modified Jewish Home logo with yellow star graphic that read “Jewish ghetto.”
It also emerged last week that Likud-Beytenu was behind an anonymous ad attacking Bennett that appeared in three newspapers.
Last Tuesday, the commission determined that the anonymous nature of the ad was a violation of election laws and ordered Likud-Beytenu and the three newspapers the ads ran in to each pay NIS 1,000 to Jewish Home.
Th ad, which first ran last Sunday in Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv and Yisrael Hayom, featured his image with the words “Bennett is irresponsible; he supports insubordination,” along with a quote from last week’s controversial television interview, in which Bennett said that “conscientious objection is an intrinsic part of being a soldier.”
Bennett’s remarks had set off a political firestorm when he said during a confrontational Channel 2 interview that, if, while serving as an IDF reservist, he was commanded to participate in the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, he would refuse to obey orders.
His remarks were widely disparaged by political and media figures across the spectrum. Bennett later partially retracted his statement, saying that he had not called for insubordination and that “a soldier must follow military orders.”
Gabe Fisher and Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.