Electionscape: On-line and on message

Likud's new video clip tries to score points with voters over Olmert's handling of the Amona clashes.

amona climbing 298 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
amona climbing 298 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In past elections, we all waited breathlessly for the party broadcasts three weeks before election day. Now, thanks to the Internet, the parties have started producing and showing video clips much earlier in the campaign, in the hope that thousands of potential voters will watch them on the Web sites and send them on to their mailing lists. As befits the medium, these are short clips, using a few basic images and a minimum of text and voiceovers. Surprisingly, they are being used to convey more complex messages than the old broadcasts. On Tuesday, Labor unveiled its new piece showing footage of Hamas terrorists shooting Kalashnikovs in the air, followed by the stark scene of an old woman collecting rotten fruit from the street. They signed off with the new slogan, "Fighting terror - Winning against poverty." Labor's strategists have come to the conclusion that Amir Peretz's social agenda just isn't enough, so they're trying to remind us that they also have a couple of generals on their list, while trying to convince us that there still is more than one battlefield. The Likud's video released Wednesday was even more subtle. It starts out with white horses prancing and the voiceover, "it's not the horses." The next scene is less pastoral, a riot policeman manhandling a demonstrator at Amona, but "it's not the police either." And soldiers marching up to Amona, "and it's not the soldiers, of course." Cut to a photo of Ehud Olmert speechifying and waving his arms - "it's Olmert's political campaign." The slogan is "Don't give him a state," broadly hinting at the old right-wing slogan against the Palestinians. The fact that the Likud is using Amona in its campaign is very surprising. The party kept a rather low profile after the traumatic evacuation two weeks ago. On the one hand, it didn't want to be seen supporting law-breakers throwing rocks at policemen. On the other, they definitely didn't want to support the government. So they kept quiet for a few days and weighed in only when the issue of an inquiry came up. They were in favor of investigating the government's decision-making and the police's conduct. Still not a word about the settlers. But over the last few days the Likud's focus groups have been showing a growing unrest among some of their former voters who moved to Kadima. Olmert is still distinctly unpopular and Amona gained him no points with the more right-leaning of Kadima's voters. Likud's propaganda chief MK Gideon Sa'ar was still at pains to emphasize yesterday that "the blame is on the lawbreakers," but with the same breath added "the responsibility for the bloodshed, though, is Olmert's." This is a departure for the Likud from the kind of campaign that Netanyahu used to wage, one-issue messages, clear, simple and explicit. Sa'ar expressed confidence that "the public is clever enough to understand these complex messages." Kadima was, of course, quick to pounce on the new video as proof that the Likud have become a "far-right party supporting violence against the security forces" and pooh-poohed the latest Channel 1 poll that showed them going down to 39 Knesset seats and the Likud finally overtaking Labor with 20. "We're still 19 ahead of them" one of them said. At Likud headquarters they're hoping that they've finally managed to crack the seemingly unbreakable Kadima facade and that, with 42 days to the election, they've begun to reverse the trend. The weekend's polls will show if they have any hope or whether this was just a blip on the screens.