#Israelex videos battle pits Zionist Camp against Bibi

As promised, video campaigning in advance of the March 17 elections in Israel has not missed a beat in the last week. In particular, two parties stood out in their attempts to sway social media voters: the Zionist Camp (a merger of Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Not surprisingly, these are the front-running parties in most polls.

Let’s begin with the following three videos from the Zionist Camp, whose campaign slogan “זה אנחנו או הוא” (“It’s us or him”) paints this election in very black and white terms. In the opening clip, various party candidates spell out what the Zionist Camp is, and what comprises its core beliefs. It is an all-star list: former social protest leader Stav Shaffir, highly regarded economist Manuel Trajtenberg, former Channel 9 Middle East correspondent Ksenia Svetlova, former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin (who also happened to be one of the pilots in the 1982 bombing of the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq), and MK Micky Rosenthal all make appearances. Finally, joint party heads Livni and Herzog deliver the final pitch: “In the upcoming election, we are returning Israel to its citizens. We will fight to make this happen. In the upcoming elections, it’s us.”

I have to admit, this is a very standard campaign video, but at the same time it is professionally executed and sets the tone for the other two which continue the theme of “us or Netanyahu”. Here, the voice of opposition against the incumbent prime minister doesn’t come from politicians, but from Israeli citizens:

Three core groups are represented in this video:

1. Residents of Israel’s south who are tired of the cycle of war along the border with Gaza.

2. Young, university educated married couples who, unable to meet their financial needs (a major concern for most young families in Israel), have been forced to rethink the classic family model – in one case the couple decided to move in with their parents, and in the other they are postponing the dream of having a big family.

3. A Mizrachi blue-collar worker who is frustrated by the fact that no matter how many hours he puts in he is unable to “raise a family with dignity”.

Each group repeats the same mantra: that the upcoming election is about voting for the people, or Netanyahu. “It’s like the syndrome of a battered wife who repeatedly chooses to stay with the same man who put us in this position,” one women adds.

This single-minded focus on Netanyahu is tactical. According to most polling data, Likud and the Zionist Camp are neck and neck in Knesset seats, but due to the fact that the rest of the political landscape leans to the right Herzog and Livni have plenty more work to do in order to ensure a victory. A tie is likely not enough to dethrone Bibi. In the final Zionist Camp video, a heavily American-accented Netanyahu thanks passengers (i.e. Israeli voters) for flying with Bibitours, a fictional airline that happens to be the nickname of a scandal revolving around Netanyahu’s travel expenditures between 1999 and 2008:

Even without a knowledge of Hebrew it is pretty easy to understand the gist of the video, which is that Netanyahu is detached from and insensitive to the economic realities of most Israelis.

The rebuttal by the Likud Party has been equally piquant. Similar to a video show in a previous post, Netanyahu’s main argument is that he is the only mature adult in a political landscape oversaturated by infants. The following “Bibi-sitter” video, which I successfully found with English subtitles, succinctly summarizes his position:

Note the subtle reference to the Zionist Camp’s “Us or Him” slogan at the end of this clip. Netanyahu’s response is “זה אנחנו או הם” or “It’s Us or Them”. From the Likud perspective, the more polarizing the rhetoric the better.

Speaking of polarization, the following video may be one of the most fascinating ones out there:

The two characters, in case you aren’t familiar, are Zionist Camp co-chairs Tzipi Livni and Isaac “Buji” Herzog. Because the two leaders agreed (if they win the election) to “share the prime ministership on rotation, with Herzog as prime minister the first two years and Livni the last two years”, their caricatures are shown bickering over who should answer the red phone, a direct emergency line to US President Barack Obama. Neither wants to answer the phone. “It doesn’t work that way,” Livni tells Herzog while wagging a scolding finger in the air, “We agreed to a rotation!” Herzog, who is intentionally made to talk like a little boy, looks away and mutters ” קשוחית”, which literally means “stubborn”, but in this context is more like “bonehead”.

The subtext of this video is far more interesting, and it says as much about Netanyahu as it does about Livni and Herzog. OK, we all know that Livni and Herzog are unfit to lead, the video says, but why are they scared to answer a call from Obama?

In the last two weeks, Netanyahu has come under fire both in Israel and the United States for accepting an invitation to speak on the before the US Congress on March 3. The invitation, which came at the behest of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), was made without the knowledge of the White House. Obama has decided to not meet with Netanyahu while he will be in Washington, citing the proximity to Israeli elections. The diplomatic circus that ensued (and is ongoing) is unfortunate and complicated – I am not going to go into all of the details. However, a fair number of analysts in Israel think that not only does the opportunity to speak before Congress benefit Netanyahu’s campaign, so does the public spat with Obama. Shmuel Rosner isn’t so convinced, and does a good job of explaining his position here. Either way you slice it, the above video is a direct reference to Netanyahu’s discord with Obama, and unquestionably argues that, unlike Livni and Herzog, he is not afraid of POTUS.

With 40 days remaining before election day, expect both parties to intensify their rhetoric. Tomorrow, I will dissect some additional videos from secondary parties that have recently been posted, and talk about a fascinating “get out the vote” video involving supermodel Bar Raphaeli.



* It is worth noting that today Herzog challenged Netanyahu to a public debate: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=870783716297927&fref=nf

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel