Michal Herzog, wife of opposition leader Isaac Herzog, sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday over a proposed campaign poster from 2015 that showed a photoshopped image of her husband dressed as a woman.
“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of practicing restraint,” Herzog told Army Radio. “When politics becomes slander, no citizen has to sit and take it… There are limits of good taste.”
Herzog lamented the state of Israeli politics, with its often sharp divisions and unrestrained rhetoric. This did not reflect the Israeli people, she said, who “want to listen to each other.”
She blamed the state of affairs directly on the prime minister, saying, “He picks one object or community or another and delegitimizes them. That’s exactly the issue.”
The photoshopped image of Herzog that made the rounds on social media had the opposition leader caked in makeup and wearing a pink wig with a black bow. The Hebrew word mahapach — which can mean “makeover” and is most widely used to refer to a dramatic political reversal — is plastered across the ad, mocking Herzog’s frequent use of the word during the campaign.
In another ad, with the heading, “Here is the man who always answers Tzipi Livni’s calls,” then-Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is depicted with the word “Zibi?” inside a speech bubble. Zibi in Arabic is a crude word for male genitalia, and in the poster it was used to allude to how Mashaal would likely pronounce opposition figure and Herzog ally Tzipi Livni’s first name.
Neither that poster nor the advertisement showing Herzog dressed as a woman were ever officially used by Netanyahu’s Likud party during the 2015 elections, though they were posted on Facebook on a page that wasn’t officially affiliated with the campaign. They surfaced earlier this week when the Haaretz daily published leaked Likud PR materials from the campaign.
The material also included a photoshopped image of Livni hitchhiking in a bikini, as well as an ad intimating that she was cozy with leaders of the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Another image implied that MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint (Arab) List was prepared to make alliances with left-wing parties in order to further his pro-Palestinian agenda.
Isaac Herzog, in a response Tuesday to Haaretz, called the posters “incitement” and said they were typical of Netanyahu’s personality and agenda.
“This discovery elicits revulsion, but it mainly indicates Netanyahu’s very problematic character – the serious personality flaws that have accompanied him throughout his public career,” he said. “His only interest is personal survival, and he’s willing to put every sacred value, every norm and every word of incitement on the pyre, all for the sake of momentary political gain.”
Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson called in a Facebook post Tuesday for Netanyahu to be charged with “incitement and violence” against Herzog and Livni.
Hasson recalled a 1995 speech by Netanyahu at a Jerusalem rally that many in the left have decried as incitement that led to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shortly afterward.
“Netanyahu continues to poison the Israeli public with murderous incitement,” he wrote. “Netanyahu must be stopped at any price, a moment before the next murder. A man who portrays his opponents as Hamas terrorists and traitors who collaborate with Hezbollah is a feckless and unscrupulous man.”
Livni, meanwhile, said, “The man who surrendered to Hamas, paid them (in the form of) thousands of terrorists in a prisoner exchange deal [for captured soldier Gilad Shalit] and negotiated with them to stop firing during Operation Protective Edge — was [Netanyahu].”
Nir Hefetz, who ran Likud’s public relations during the election, said Netanyahu was not aware of the ads. “These materials never reached me and obviously not the prime minister… the prime minister is absolutely opposed to this type of campaigning.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.