The Health Ministry and the Attorney-General informed the chairman of the Central Elections Committee (CEC), Justice Uzi Vogelman, on Sunday that the Likud party was in violation of campaign regulations and needed to stop using the Health Ministry's vaccination slogan in its campaign. The opinion arrived following an appeal by the Achrayut Leumit (National Responsibility) movement on Thursday. Likud has the opportunity to respond by Monday afternoon.
The slogan "Coming back to life" was originally intended to encourage members of the public to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Achrayut Leumit claimed both slogan usage and such public visits are in violation of the prohibition of using "public assets", be they tangible or intangible, for campaign purposes.
However the A-G claimed that the request to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Health Minister Yuli Edelstein from visiting medical centers as part of the campaign trail would likely be rejected as it is “too general” seeing as such visits might have legitimate professional reasons.
The response also pointed to such public visits as serving the need of encouraging the public to get the COVID-19 vaccination. The recommendation was that, when such visits are coordinated with health professionals, they should not be regarded as unlawful campaign efforts made at the public’s expense.
When Netanyahu attended a medical center to mark Israel’s five millionth vaccinated citizen, that visit was examined and approved according to these guidelines, the response said.
When the issue is using the slogan, the A-G claimed that Likud is indeed using a slogan coined by the Health Ministry to encourage people to get the vaccine and was aired, at the cost of the state, through various media channels and in various languages, and its usage is in violation of the existing prohibition.
Achrayut Leumit director-general Oshi Elmaliah said on Thursday that Netanyahu "has long since lost the distinction between what belongs to the state and what belongs to him and his family, but to the delight of the public in Israel - there is still a functioning and impartial justice system here."
"We saw this in Netanyahu's failed attempt to harness the CEO of Pfizer [Albert Bourla] and the planned visit that was rejected, among other things, in light of our appeal to the CEO of Pfizer that the prime minister was using it for propaganda purposes, and we see this in this case as well."
Earlier this month, the CEC banned the broadcast of a segment of the Stand-Up Nation comedy show featuring Netanyahu after it determined that the episode was forbidden election propaganda.
In the decision, the committee’s chairman, Justice Uzi Vogelman, said although the section in question was designated as entertainment, throughout it “messages are intertwined that are on the political agenda,” and they could influence voters.
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this article.