Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visting IDF troops .
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not take pictures with IDF soldiers, even in his capacity as defense minister, Central Elections Committee chairman Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer ruled Monday.
The ruling came following a Labor petition to the committee, in light of the 1959 Election Propaganda Law, which prohibits, among other things, using soldiers and the IDF as part of parties’ campaigns.
Melcer also said the Government Press Office may not disseminate the images, and any posted on Netanyahu’s social media during the election period must be deleted. He also called on IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to order officers and soldiers to avoid taking photos with political candidates.
Labor argued that “publishing photos and video clips are a forbidden use by [Likud] of the IDF and its soldiers as part of their election campaign, in violation of the law,” and asked Melcer to place an injunction on their use of such photos.
Likud responded that not every photo of Netanyahu with soldiers or “IDF motifs” violates the law, and argued that the “dominant character of the published [photos] are newsworthy and informative.”
In addition, the Likud argued the law limiting campaign content should be interpreted narrowly to avoid violating free speech.
Melcer said that the IDF is “the army of the whole country, not of a party... which unites and bridges between population groups and worldviews in Israeli society.” As such, it should be apolitical.
Earlier this month, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told Netanyahu not to take photos with soldiers, but he continued to do so, and the Prime Minister’s Office disseminated photos of Netanyahu on a naval base last week.
Mandelblit told the Central Elections Committee that there could be exceptions, such as photos meant to deter the enemy or in an emergency situation, but that they should be published on the official Prime Minister’s Office Facebook page and not Netanyahu’s Likud-run political page.
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