“If Bar Refaeli is telling me to vote…”

Israel is home to a robust democracy. However, despite its rich history, voter turnout has been in decline since 1999. Why is this? There are a number of reasons, some of them familiar to students of political science (i.e. citizens don’t vote because they don’t have faith in political system, don’t find themselves gravitating towards a particular party, or don’t believe their vote will make an impact) and some more specifically related to the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2000, when the derailing peace process rapidly transformed into the 2nd Intifada, two particular voting groups became disenchanted with Israeli politics: the Israeli left, and Israel’s Arab citizens. Left-wing voters grew frustrated by Labor Party infighting, but more importantly the party’s inability to reinvent itself following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and adapt to the changes going on within Israeli society. Obviously the 2nd Intifada also undermined the public’s faith in Rabin’s message. In contrast, Arab voting trends had been in decline for years. This is primarily due to Arab feelings of inferiority within Israeli society, disappointment with Arab political leadership, and a decision (by many) to withhold their vote in protest to the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The graph below (with more information on the topic available here and here) displays how drastically the situation deteriorated in 2000.

But there is hope that things will change. The unity of several Arab parties with conflicting ideological values into one joint list is a historic moment that will hopefully ensure the presence of Israel’s largest minority population in the Knesset (OK, I will admit that it was the previous government’s decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25% which forced these parties into banding together, and there are some who think that it won’t last beyond day one, but it is a positive outcome either way).

More importantly, there is a belief that overall voter turnout is on the upswing, as the 2013 election registered the highest numbers this century, including from the Arab population.

Which brings me to this entertaining “get-out-the-vote-video”, perhaps the first of its kind in Israel’s history:

The protagonist, “Benny Tavor”, is a typical average Joe heading out of his apartment building in Tel Aviv. But as he passes the mailbox, a “stalker” (in fact, pop star Ivri Lider) pops out, trying to capture Benny’s photo. “Benny? Benny Tavor?” Lider says. “I’ve been waiting for you. Can I walk with you for a bit?” From one scene to the next, Benny is treated like royalty by a slew of Israel’s A-list celebs and media personalities as he makes his way to – of all places – the polling station. As he turns to make his way to the “קלפי” (kalpee), or voting booth, who walks out? International superstar model Bar Refaeli.

“Hi Benny!” Refaeli smiles, “You look so much better in person. Can I take a selfie?”

Click goes the camera. Refaeli gives Benny a kiss on the cheek. As the commercial fades out a voice says, “On March 17, you are the real star!”

I have never heard of supermodels actively involving themselves in politics, so perhaps this is a sign that the upcoming elections will be different?

More video shorts:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party hasn’t been heard from much this election, and for good reason as his party is under investigation for corruption. Several high ranking members of the party, including agriculture minister and party No.2 Yair Shamir, tourism minister Uzi Landau, public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman David Rotem have all stepped down from office and will not be running on the party list. As if life wasn’t trying enough, Liberman is also under fire for as a party slogan that advocates giving up the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm (and rescinding the Israeli citizenship of its 300,000 residents) to a future Palestinian state in exchange for retaining Israeli control over the settlement of Ariel.

Here is Yisrael Beytenu’s video, which more or less explains the party position for exchanging populations for the sake of a two-state solution:

And here is another one from the rising star, Naftali Bennett, who seems to be putting out videos of this kind every other day:

A doctor and nurse look over a comatose patient. The name scribbled on the clipboard at the patient’s feet reads: “Our Lives”.

The doctor says, “So, what’s the story here?”

The nurse replies, “Listen, we have tried everything. I don’t know why it has bee like this for 20 years.”

“What did they give him?” the doctor asks.

“Oslo A, Oslo B, the Hebron Agreement, the Wye Agreement, the [2005] Disengagement [from the Gaza Strip], Annapolis, the [2009] Bar Ilan speech [by Benjamin Netanyahu], the release of prisoners–“

“Yes yes, I see. These solutions haven’t worked for some time. He won’t survive if we continue in this fashion.”

The doctor pauses.

“I don’t understand, who were his doctors all these years?”

“There were people here,” the nurse explains, “who identified themselves as medical experts and said that if we prescribed other solutions the patient would fall into isolation…Doctor, I apologize.”

“First off,” the doctor replies, “Don’t apologize. Is it not clear to you what to give him?” He pulls out a prescription for Bennett’s party, the Jewish Home.

“Four years at least,” the doctor orders.


For more on Israel election 2015 videos, check out my other posts here and here.

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel