Television in Israel last night saw another round of election ads. Tuesday night’s advertisement by Likud-Bietenu was positive, highlighting the achievements of the government over the last four years. Wednesday night’s, however, attacked the members of the Jewish Home’s candidate list.
Here’s the video, followed by the English translation:
“Who is really hiding behind Bennett’s smiles?
“Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan number four on the Jewish Home’s list called for the removal of the committee on the status of women.
“Orit Struck, number ten, who called to levy a legal ‘price tag’ from IDF commanders and the police.
“Moti Yogev, number nine, that led the separation of boys and girls in Bnei Akiva.
“Harav Dov Lior, the spiritual leader, who said Baruch Goldstein is holy like the holy ones (victims) of the Holocaust.
“Harav Zalman Melamed who called on soldiers to refuse an order.
“This is the real Jewish Home (party). Before you vote, check whom you are voting for.”
The last time Likud-Beitenu attacked Bennett on his “refusing orders” statement (which he recanted later) and then on the same issue of the other members of the Jewish Home, many people were upset that the Likud was attacking the Jewish Home. “Why aren’t they attacking the left uniting the nationalist camp?” they complained. The notion that one cannot attack a party or politicians who agree with you on ideological issues is absurd. For month’s Bennett has been attacking the Likud and many members of his list have been doing so publicly for years. (Ayellet Shaked of course was a Likud member until six months ago and based on her appearance in the My Likud magazine probably intended to run in the primaries, so she has not previously attacked the Likud). To say that the Likud can’t criticize Jewish Home in kind is to say that the Likud must standby as the Jewish Home takes its voters.
As for unity of the nationalist camp, if the Jewish Home or Bennett wanted a united nationalist camp they wouldn’t have a separate party. Half the point of political parties is for people to collectively campaign for public support. The nature of campaigning in a democracy is you are either with a party or you are against it. There are many of us in the nationalist camp who have chosen the path of national unity by joining the Likud even though we disagree with certain policies or statements by a Likud Prime Minister. Like Menachem Begin, we believe in a big-tent nationalist movement that can ensure Israel stays on a path towards success and security for generations to come. Of course it takes work and vigilance to ensure that the movement stays on that path, but the election of the MKs on the Likud’s list, the vast majority of whom publicly oppose Palestinian statehood, proves that such work pays off.
If Bennett and others wanted national unity they would have either joined the Likud or they would have at least offered to merge lists prior to the election. If that were the case, they would preserve their right to leave or vote against the government as a group, but leading up to the election the Right would have a united front. They probably could have gotten between 7-10 seats in a united nationalist list for that. But that was not their goal, instead they sought to go after the maximum seats possible, by taking voters from Likud and Yisrael Beitenu.
But the inquiry into whether an attack is fair or not does not stop there. It is fair, and perhaps even obligatory for a public figure to be attacked on something that was negative true. A party or a politician has the right to show why he is / they are better for public office than a competitor. And, the public has a right to know about troubling things candidates have said and done.
There are, however, limits on what constitutes a fair attack. An attack should not, for instance, be misleading. A quote should not be taken out of context to the extent that someone reading or hearing the quote believes the candidate meant something that he did not.