After coming under fire for violating campaign regulations by using children in a political ad, Benjamin Netanyahu released a new campaign video on Saturday. While still riffing on the ‘children’ theme — and likening his political rivals to unqualified babysitters — the prime minister this time made sure there were no underage performers on-screen.
The ad begins with the premier arriving at the door of a mother and father awaiting a babysitter.
“You asked for a babysitter, you got a Bibi-sitter,” Netanyahu says, making light of his oft-used nickname.
“Where are the children?” he then asks while looking around, in a possible reference to the controversy he stirred up with his previous campaign ad.
The young couple, who are shocked by the presence of Netanyahu, ask the prime minister why he would watch over their children.
“It’s either me, or Tzipi and Bougie,” Netanyahu replies, using the nicknames of his Zionist Camp rivals Tzipi Livni and Issac Herzog. The startled parents immediately refuse, saying the two are untrustworthy.
Herzog, they laugh, needs looking after himself. And Livni? “By the time you get back she’ll probably go over to the neighbors,” Netanyahu jokes, a reference to Livni having switched between four political parties in recent years.
Poking fun at himself, the prime minister is then seen watching the previous, banned ad as the parents return from their night out. “Shalom!” they cheerfully say — the Hebrew word for ‘hello’ as well as ‘peace.’
“Not recklessly!” Netanyahu quips.
The two Zionist Camp candidates, who are running on a joint Labor-Hatnua ticket, are currently locked in a tight race with Netanyahu’s Likud party, which, according to the most recent polls, currently leads the center-left coalition by a seat.
The previous clip, which depicted Netanyahu as a responsible adult in a kindergarten class full of misbehaving children named after the leaders of various political parties, was banned by the Central Elections Committee.
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 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.
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. The video, however, is still hosted by a third party.
Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.