The most amusing part of the election cycle came on Tuesday, one day before Purim, when parties perform their spiels – otherwise known as televised campaign ads.
Some of the ads were funny, most were serious, but all the parties tried to find the Purim costume that would most appeal to the electorate.
The Zionist Union’s ad masqueraded as one for eHarmony or another dating site, describing the coupling of party leader Isaac Herzog and No. 2 Tzipi Livni, complete with heartwarming music and mutual compliments. They seemed to be advocating nepotism by playing up their parents’ qualifications – Herzog’s father was president and his grandfather was chief rabbi, and Livni’s dad was a head of operations in the Irgun.
Herzog’s Purim costume may be Rambo, if one is to believe an ad talking about his illustrious military service, complete with dramatic action-movie music – though in reality, he was an intelligence officer.
Meanwhile, the Likud didn’t have anything new to show for itself, retreading clips supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to both houses of Congress despite the White House’s opposition. Of course, the videos compared him to prime ministers who declared Israel’s establishment, launched a preemptive war against the surrounding Arab countries and bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq, despite American opposition, not prime ministers who gave a controversial speech.
Zionist Union parodied this series of ads, pointing out that prime minister Ehud Olmert had a nuclear site in Syria blown up, with support of the US and government, positing that Netanyahu is blowing up US-Israel relations.
Shas chairman Arye Deri dressed up as US actor Edward Norton for Purim. Shas’s constituents may not recognize it, but the ad in which Deri gives a long, rambling speech – in his case about how poor and how Sephardi people are invisible to most Israelis – looks suspiciously like a Norton monologue from his 2002 film 25th Hour.
Meanwhile, one has to wonder what Shas strategists were thinking when they had Deri, who went to prison on corruption charges, say: “Today, the only place with more Mizrahim than Ashkenazim is prison!” Of course, deceased Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef featured prominently in their ads, with one of a grandmother telling her grandson she must vote Shas, because it’s tradition, and another featuring a “Rav Ovadia lives” jingle.
The catchy and cheerful jingle for the Joint List, with Arab MKs and citizens singing and holding up signs with lyrics such as “Our platform is humanist,” “We are 100 percent patriotic” and “Together we’ll grow, with God’s help” almost masked its most controversial element. The combined list of Arab parties’ ad was the only one featuring the Temple Mount, and the Dome of the Rock appeared several times in the video.
Meanwhile, someone channel surfing may have been confused into thinking Bayit Yehudi’s ads were Labor’s, but once again, they were in disguise. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s party used clips of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin saying he won’t divide Jerusalem and former president Haim Herzog tearing up the UN resolution declaring that Zionism is Racism, followed by the party’s slogan: No apologies.
Bayit Yehudi found common ground with yet another left-wing party – Meretz. Both had ads saying the largest bloc will form the next government, not the largest party, so voters shouldn’t worry about not supporting the Likud or Zionist Union.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid drove home the point that he refused to have a driver when he became minister by driving around the country in his clip. At each stop, he found citizens who gave testimonials about how Yesh Atid helped them – Holocaust survivors, small business owners, haredim entering the workforce and more.
Lapid showed that he has yet to look up “corruption” in the dictionary, by once again calling arguably wasteful government policies – such as having many ministers or ministers-without-portfolio – corrupt.
Yisrael Beytenu removed a mask it had been wearing by having ads air in Russian with Hebrew subtitles, instead of the other way around, as a way to rally its base despite years of claiming that it is not a sectoral party. The story of Liberman’s aliya and rise to power was the theme of one of the Russian-language ads, and the other was similar to all of the party’s Hebrew-language ones, which called for death penalty for terrorists.
Kulanu masqueraded as the Likud with an ad prominently featuring Menachem Begin and saying that people who love the Likud should vote for the party’s former minister, Moshe Kahlon.
Kulanu got into the Purim spirit before everyone else, with two videos that came out last week and not on TV. In one, candidate and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren adopted a Southern drawl and pretended to be Frank Underwood, the main character of popular American political drama House of Cards, on the eve of its third season premiere. In another, the party depicted a Knesset Purim Party, in which the leaders of all the other parties wore masks of Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon to try to dress up as politicians who will bring social reforms.
The major disappointment of the first batch of commercials were the parties without a realistic chance of making into the Knesset, which often have humorous offerings, but this time the Green Leaf party must have been sober, because its ads were serious. The “Defending Our Children” (antipornography) party’s video, in which young men talked about at what age they started watching porn, was pretty funny, but apparently not intentionally.
The one party that probably won’t make it into the Knesset but had a funny ad was the Greens.
They obviously have their finger on the viral-video pulse, and used goats saying “Bibi [Netanyahu],” “Buji [Isaac Herzog]” and “Bennett,” and a cat playing piano.
The ads will air on television every evening until the March 17 election, at 6 p.m. on Channel 10, at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 1, and at 11 p.m. on Channel 2, with exceptions for sporting events.