Did Netanyahu’s televised ‘dramatic announcement’ break campaign laws?

Two political parties- Eretz Hadasha (New Land), and the Yashar (Direct) party- submitted complaints asserting that Netanyahu's remarks violated campaign laws.

January 8, 2019 12:08
1 minute read.

Netanyahu demands the chance to confront state's witnesses, January 9, 2019 (Reuters)

Netanyahu demands the chance to confront state's witnesses, January 9, 2019 (Reuters)


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Two parties submitted complaints to the Central Elections Committee about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement to the public on Monday night, saying TV channels aired illegal election campaign materials.

Eretz Hadasha (New Land), a party led by Eldad Yaniv – a former political adviser who has spearheaded many of the anti-Netanyahu protests in recent years, and Yashar (Direct), a party that plans to create an app by which citizens can tell MKs what they want them to do each day, sent letters to Central Elections Committee committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer saying the news broadcast of Netanyahu’s remarks violated campaign laws.

Netanyahu’s political spokesman announced on Monday afternoon that he would be making a “dramatic announcement,” leading to media speculation for hours about what he would say. After 8 p.m. he broadcasted a statement – without letting journalists see him live or ask questions – calling for investigators to allow him to confront the witnesses on his three corruption cases with his version of the truth. During his remarks, Netanyahu also criticized Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

Election campaign laws come into effect 90 days before the vote; the broadcast took place 92 days before the April 9 election date. The main Hebrew news broadcasts – Hadashot News, Channel 10 and KAN – all aired Netanyahu’s remarks, though Channel 10 cut them off halfway through.

Still, Yashar wrote that “the broadcast was taken advantage of for propaganda against different parties and accusations towards the prime minister’s political competitors. In addition, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu took advantage of his status and power to get free airtime to attack the state attorney and judiciary.”

The party admitted that Monday was beyond the law’s purview, but called on Melcer to clarify that parties should be more careful.
Eretz Hadasha asked Melcer to call an urgent meeting with representatives of television and radio stations and order them not to use airtime “for the candidate Benjamin Netanyahu’s prohibited election propaganda.”

The letter said the broadcast “made a mockery of campaign laws in Israel and gives an unfair advantage to the candidate Netanyahu over others.”

Yaniv’s party noted that an estimated 991,000 people watched the broadcast.

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