Israelis Want a Clean Election, But Will Netanyahu Play Ball?

Monday, February 04, 2019 |  Tsvi Sadan

The religious organization Tzohar has drafted a charter calling for a clean election campaign leading up to the April 9 vote in Israel.

The charter stipulates, among other things, that expressions against other parties and personalities should be made in a respectful, non-denigrating manner, that family members of rival candidates should be off-limits, and that the "culture of lies" should be avoided.

So far, the charter has been signed by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, Labor Party leader Avi Gabai and newcomer Benny Gantz, to list but a few of the bigger names on the document.

As for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his latest campaign video clip titled "Kicking the fake out of the news" is a good example of how Israeli politicians translate the notion of "clean elections" to their own campaigns. The video (Hebrew only, see below) features Netanyahu negotiating with a reporter. The dialogue goes:

Reporter: Are you sure this is the right thing to do?

Netanyahu: I know this is the right thing.

Reporter: So you are actually asking me for positive coverage? (alluding to Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is accused of trading political favors for positive coverage by the Walla news portal)

Netanyahu: Honest coverage.

Reporter: Positive.

Netanyahu: Honest.

Reporter: But it would be positive.

Netanyahu: Enough with this.

Reporter: But if I'll do honest reporting it could come across as positive.

Netanyahu: Walla! (Hebrew slang for "Really!", and a play on words alluding to the aforementioned Walla news portal)

Reporter: So what are you actually expecting me to do?

Netanyahu: You will report only what you actually see, and I'll make sure it will be positive.

Reporter: And what's in it for me?

Netanyahu: I'll give you a "Like".

Reporter: A heart "Like"?

Netanyahu: Alright. Enough with it.

Reporter: It's a deal.


This short and effective clip, which doesn't denigrate anyone or any party, packs a lot of innuendo that every Israeli can grasp in a heartbeat. It addresses what Netanyahu sees as a years-long personal smear campaign against him and his family; it addresses a biased media and bizarre police investigations; it addresses the absurdity of being charged for seeking positive media coverage; and it does all of that and more in a humorous and witty way that puts Netanyahu in a new light, a playful prime minister who can take a jab at his rivals without resorting to fake news, defamation and other forms of abuse.

Hopefully, Netanyahu is ushering in a new kind of campaigning that others will follow. Judging by the names on Tzohar's charter, most parties contending the upcoming election really want to keep it clean.

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