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Likud says Lapid broke campaign rules by posting photos with troops

Opposition party asks election supervisory panel to demand halt after prime minister photographed with officers during Gaza operation; Yesh Atid says aim is to keep public informed

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (2nd-L) tour the IDF's Southern Command on August 7, 2022, amid fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (2nd-L) tour the IDF's Southern Command on August 7, 2022, amid fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The Likud party has accused Prime Minister Yair Lapid of illegal electioneering through posting photos of himself with soldiers online, asking the state elections body to step in and stop the practice.

The petition filed Tuesday with the Central Elections Committee also sought an injunction on government social media accounts being used for campaigning by ministers in Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

The claim echoed similar claims in the past against Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ordered to remove photos of himself with soldiers from social media in the run-up to the 2019 Knesset election.

On Sunday, Lapid posted photos of himself meeting with senior IDF officers in the south of the country during Operation Breaking Dawn, a three-day offensive against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip.

Yesh Atid said in response to the petition that the photos were not electioneering, but a way to disseminate information about “important” matters.

“In addition, it also has value in deterring the enemy and transmitting a reassuring message to the public,” Yesh Atid said.

Israeli campaign advertising laws forbid using uniformed soldiers in campaign materials, and it is illegal to conduct political campaigns on IDF bases.

In 2019, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud party leader who is seeking to return to power, was ordered to remove photos and videos of himself visiting IDF soldiers and bases by the attorney general, his ministry’s legal adviser, and the Supreme Court justice who heads the Central Elections Committee.

After Netanyahu appeared to flout an order from the attorney general to abide by the relevant laws, the Central Elections Committee, a judge-led panel with representatives from major political parties that administers the elections and adjudicates disputes, issued a temporary injunction banning Netanyahu and his Likud party from publishing social media photos of the premier, who also served as defense minister, alongside IDF soldiers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes a selfie with a soldier during an event for lone soldiers in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Shortly after the order from the committee, nearly all photos of Netanyahu with uniformed IDF soldiers were removed from the prime minister’s and his party’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

Netanyahu and Lapid are both vying for the role of the prime minister at the November 1 elections, the fifth vote since 2019.

Polls aired on Israel’s major TV networks on Monday, a day after the escalation with Gaza ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, showed that the public believed Lapid had handled the round of fighting well.

However, it showed no sign of relief from the country’s electoral deadlock, with neither candidate clearly able to form a majority, according to what are thought to be the likely constellations of alliances.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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