The Central Elections Committee on Monday rejected a petition to ban an ad by the Likud party that maintained that the Zionist Union party would benefit the Islamic State group.
Justice Salim Joubran said that “the clip is defensible as an exercise in political freedom of expression” and added that as head of the committee his “authority does not include banning campaign videos even if they leave one feeling uncomfortable.
“It would be preferable for Likud to convey this message positively and not in a negative manner, not by using motifs that appear to create a link between the political left and a terror organization,” Joubran said.
In the ad, several jihadists in a pickup truck stop to ask an Israeli driver for directions to Jerusalem. The Israeli replies: “Take a left,” and the slogan “The left will give in to terror” flashes on the screen.
In response to the ad, former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and the Zionist Union party sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his past agreements to release Palestinian prisoners, many of them convicted terrorists.
“The left will allow the Islamic State into Israel, Netanyahu says. The man who released Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1997 and rebuilt Hamas. The man who released over 1,000 terrorists, some of whom have already went back to carrying out terror attacks during his term as prime minister,” Diskin wrote on his Facebook page.
“The man who released terrorists in order to not freeze settlements, in an arrangement with the Jewish Home party, the man who was dragged into the longest war since the War of Independence against a terror group, the man who threatened Iran but cannot topple a terror group in Gaza.”
Netanyahu has “lost his sense of shame,” Diskin charged.
Similarly, the Zionist Union released a statement castigating Netanyahu’s “colossal failure in the area of security.”
“He released more than one thousand terrorists with blood on their hands, strengthened Hamas, Iran under his watch became a nuclear threshold state, and the personal security of Israel’s citizens is impaired daily,” the party statement said.
The release of Palestinian security prisoners, most of them convicted murderers, became one of the most divisive issues within Netanyahu’s ruling coalition in 2014, after he agreed to release over 100 such prisoners at the outset of the most recent round of peace talks with the Palestinians. The talks collapsed in the spring, in part because of a dispute over the fourth and final batch of prisoner releases, with the Palestinians demanding the release of Israeli Arab inmates, and Netanyahu saying he had never agreed to do so
In November, the Knesset gave final approval to a contentious law to prevent Palestinian prisoner releases for those serving life sentences, effectively removing the option to use prisoners as a bargaining chip with the Palestinians.