The Central Elections Committee banned on Tuesday a Likud campaign video portraying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rivals as kindergarten children, with the PM playing the role of responsible adult.
The video was nixed for violating campaign regulations barring parties from using children under the age of 15 in ads.
Justice Salim Jubran, who chairs the committee, issued the order after a joint petition by Yesh Atid and the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, which followed previous complaints by Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer and the CEO of Israel National Council for the child, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman.
Jubran cast doubt on the explanation given by the Likud party headquarters which said the ad, posted on YouTube on Saturday and screened on Channel 2 news on Saturday night, hadn’t been approved for broadcast. “Unfortunately, because of a technical error, the video reached the Internet even though it wasn’t approved for publication or broadcast by the public relations staff of the Likud party,” the Likud party said in a statement.
The ad was still on YouTube early Wednesday afternoon.
Jubran said he found the explanation strange and ordered the Likud and Netanyahu to pay 5,000 shekels to the complainants to cover the cost of filing their petitions.
“I find it hard to understand why money was invested in [filming] the ad and the prime minister was required to appear in it if it was not meant for broadcast,” Jubran wrote in his decision.
The judge noted that the Likud and Netanyahu have already gleaned “significant political capital from the video” as leading TV channels, radio stations and websites featured the ad.
He urged the Likud to bury the video and file a request with YouTube to have it removed. The ruling party said in response that it respected the decision.
In the ad, Netanyahu appears in a kindergarten inhabited by rambunctious children who caricature his former and current coalition allies in the outgoing Knesset: Hatnua’s Tzipi Livni, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman. Notably absent is opposition leader and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog.
“Children calm down, we’re not getting anything done today,” Netanyahu says as the kids scamper around pestering one another.
“Evet,” he says, calling Liberman by his Russian first name, “you must learn to share with other children.”
A child dressed up to look like Lapid pokes another dressed like Bennett, who responds “uch” — meant to sound like the Hebrew term for brother which was the catchphrase of the two leaders’ ad hoc alliance following the 2013 elections.
Netanyahu then scolds the children — his political rivals — for their misbehavior. “Yair, stop playing with that, you’ll break it,” Netanyahu calls to a young Lapid look-alike who’s rattling an abacus, in a clear allusion to the latter’s stint as finance minister.
“Yair and Naftali, stop fighting over the chair,” he says, referring to their alliance-turned-rivalry.
“Tzipi, stop running from place to place,” Netanyahu says, referring to Livni’s drift from party to party in recent years, from Likud to Kadima to Hatnua and now to a union with the Labor Party. Livni gets special attention with a closing, “Enough, Tzipi” from Netanyahu.
“It’s a waste of time, we can’t continue with this kindergarten,” he says, wrapping up the clip.
“In order to run a country, you need a strong and stable government,” Netanyahu declares in closing. “Vote Likud for a change in the system.”
Netanyahu last week said his party would push for new legislation mandating that the Knesset’s largest party would form the government, instead of having the president select the party most capable of forming a stable coalition.