The weird, wacky and wondrous Israeli election ads

Who takes home the awards for the best campaign commercials of this election? Here are the full results.

The New Right's "Breakup Song" (photo credit: Courtesy)
The New Right's "Breakup Song"
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For more than 100 days, Israel’s dozens of political parties have been campaigning with viral videos, compelling commercials and amusing ads. Across social media as well as during the scheduled TV broadcasts for campaign ads, the parties have worked to inform and influence the Israeli electorate. Their success will be judged on Election Day, but The Jerusalem Post will judge them for humor, creativity, persuasion and coherence, and hand out nine awards before voting even begins.
Best musical: New Right's "Breakup Song"
With the upcoming Eurovision in Tel Aviv, it seems the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett are getting in the musical spirit. Earlier this week, they released a catchy and well-produced video for their “breakup song.” Who is breaking up? The IDF and the High Court, of course. “It’s better for us to keep our distance/ We’re not husband and wife/ You have to be strong,” Shaked sings – surprisingly well – before Bennett chimes in with a spoken word interlude that I cannot in good conscious call rap: “My commander told me I have to attack/ My lawyer told you might be sorry/ It’s confusing, it’s disturbing/ When I’m up against a terrorist.” The pair are campaigning for justice minister and defense minister, but they could have a future on the radio charts.
Best horror film: Founders' Surety
They might not receive many votes this election, but they will probably inspire several nightmares. An ad for the Founders’ Surety Party led by Haim Dayan – which seeks to protect the rights of pensioners – ends with a brutal murder. The campaign spot features a couple on the dance floor – first as children, then young adults, middle aged and eventually an elderly couple. As the final couple dances, a man wearing a flag of Israel mask shows up with an assault rifle aimed at their heads. The clip ends with the dubious claim: “Israel has returned to targeted assassinations against the elderly population.” Memorable, but not for good reasons.
Best rabbinical cameo: Shas
They say you should stick to what you know, and the Shas Party has certainly done that this year. Every Shas campaign ad features – you guessed it – the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party’s spiritual leader and the father of current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. The party’s slogan: “There is a father in heaven: Only ‘maran’ in the ballot box,” using the word reserved for highly respected rabbis. It’s not that Shas is the only party to feature a rabbinical figure – United Torah Judaism did the same with the 91-year-old Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. However, Shas keeps the theme constant throughout all of its campaign spots, featuring footage of the late rabbinical leader, as well as airing on TV a poignant ad featuring audio of Yosef speaking over video of his empty chair, before cutting to a clip of him endorsing the party and then a shot of a memorial candle. The message is clear.
Best animal prop: New Right's "Dove Video" 
The Justice For All animal rights party may not have loved Bennett’s dove campaign ad, but it certainly got him plenty of social media attention. In the clip, Bennett lectures a dove – the symbol of peace – about all the problems with working to attain that lofty goal. “Because of you, we almost lost hope,” Bennett tells the bird he’s gripping while standing symbolically in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. “Raise up your head, remember you’re right, fight, win, give it your all. Then, and only then, they’ll beg you to make peace.” The metaphor is heavy handed at best, but at least the dove appears to make it out of filming unharmed.
Best prison film: Yisrael Beytenu
Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman isn’t the first politician to set a campaign video in prison this year. However, his clip featuring a group of Palestinian prisoners sitting around in a jail cell hit all the notes he was aiming for. One of the prisoners checks his phone (thanks to former Balad MK Basel Ghattas – who is in prison for smuggling phones into jail) to see he received a poll via text. The group debates the different parties, saying they could never vote for Yisrael Beytenu, because they won’t be able to finish their academic degrees, and they might get the death penalty for “something trivial, like murdering a family.” Liberman then launches into his most consistent campaign message: the death penalty for terrorists. He is nothing if not on brand.
Best superhero film: Semion Grafman
Semion Grafman – the actor, ex-con and social activist – founded his own party, the Social Security Party, for the upcoming election. And while he is polling at nonexistent levels, Grafman knows that there’s nothing better for the box office than a superhero film. His campaign clip features a woman in Tel Aviv crying over her dog who is stuck in a tree. “Spider-Man Netanyahu” shows up and does nothing, “Superman Gantz” arrives via skateboard and can’t help, until Grafman himself shows up – sans superhero outfit – and dislodges the puppy with one swift kick. Delusional? Of course. Entertaining? Undoubtedly.
Best ensemble: Blue and White
No political party has managed to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in more than a decade. Blue and White is hoping that what one leader cannot do, four can. Many of its ads feature the party’s top four leaders – Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi – sitting around and talking. About what? Netanyahu, of course. “The unity of Israeli society is its secret power, and it’s in danger – Bibi divides people,” Ashkenazi says in one clip. “You’re the prime minister,” Ya’alon interjects. “Not everything is politics and political survival.” Can a party with four leaders bring unity to Israel?
Lifetime Achievement Award: Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the few faces to appear in campaign ads consistently for more than 30 years. And in 2019, his tenth national election, Netanyahu is inescapable. The prime minister is the only Likud MK who appears in the party’s national campaign video ads, and it appears if this election is about anything, it’s about him. After all, he appears in plenty of Blue and White’s ad spots as well. There are sometimes other people in Likud’s campaign ads, specifically American politicians praising him – including US President Donald Trump, former governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Ted Cruz. A Likud ad in 1999 proclaimed: “Netanyahu: A strong leader for the future of Israel.” In 2019, the slogan reads: “Prime Minister Netanyahu: Right-Wing. Strong. Successful.” What will be in 2039?
Overall winner: New Right
Love them or hate them, the New Right Party led by Bennett and Shaked put out some of the best campaign ads this election season. From their breakup song, to Bennett’s heartfelt conversation with a dove, to Shaked’s fascism perfume ad or a spoof of an interview with Moshe Feiglin’s (not) grandmother, the party’s commercials undeniably got people talking. The reactions certainly weren’t all positive, but there’s no denying that the New Right had the most innovative, compelling and often amusing campaign commercials this year. The duo weren’t afraid to make out-of-the-box ad spots, and it showed. But, will it help them in the ballot box? That remains to be seen.