The Likud party has pulled a contentious TV spot featuring Islamic State terrorists on a mission to take over Jerusalem, replacing it with a second commercial warning that Israeli Arab politicians will anchor any government that might replace Netanyahu.
Both Likud television commercials conclude with the tag line, “Its Us or Them.”
The “Islamic State” commercial drew criticism from diverse quarters ranging from a coalition of former IDF commanders to a Jordanian rap group, which has objected to use of its track without permission in the first “Us or Them” spot. In the clip, an actor playing a naïve Hebrew speaking motorist instructs the Islamic State invaders to “turn left” to reach the Jerusalem.
LAST SUNDAY, the left wing Meretz Party filed a formal complaint with Israel’s Attorney General claiming the “Left gives directions to Islamic State” spot had the same overtones of incitement, which characterized Netanyahu’s 1992 campaign against Yitzhak Rabin.
The Likud candidate appeared at rallies where placards showed Rabin dressed in the uniform of a SS German officer.
“Netanyahu has to build on the legitimate and credible fears of the Israeli Jewish community and regardless of what the AG rules, the damage has already been done,” said Bashar Iraqi, Arab Communities Coordinator for the Meretz Party.
“This video went viral so the message of alarm has been spread,” added the 31-year-old activist who also leads Darna, a community service NGO in the Arab town of Tira just west of the 1967 Green Line.
“Of course then there are the horrific real movies that DA’ASH (ed. note: the Arabic acronym for Islamic State) is spreading, reinforcing the fictional scenario with a real one which also benefits Netanyahu.”
“Each commercial has to bring a source of threat, if it is not DA’ASH, it’s Iran, if not Iran, it’s Hezbollah, if not Hezbollah it’s Hamas, and if it’s not Hamas it’s the Arab citizens of this country,” said Iraqi, referring to the latest Likud commercial.
“I think the current government is threatening people without any basis,” said retired IDF general Amnon Reshef.
Reshef is one of 183 retired senior officials from the Israeli military and intelligence communities who formed the non-partisan Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) organization which calls for a regional political-security initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and normalize relations with moderate Arab states.
CIS released a statement on Thursday calling on the Likud to cease airing the Islamic State commercial.
“The problem is not the vans with Islamic State fighters but the fact that if there is no change in the conduct of Israel’s security, fears of the mothers for their children’s future will increase,” reads the statement which condemns the commercial for “implied incitement”.
“The IDF is a capable force, strong enough to defend any border which will be decided and accepted by the Israeli government and the Israeli people,” said Reshef who admits that there is a gap between the security outlook of his group of former top brass and wide segments of the public.
A POLL COMMISSIONED by the Israel Democracy Institute has found that while a majority of voters put economic issues ahead of security considerations, 58% of the Jewish public state that a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu is better suited to deal with Israel’s security issues.
“The Israeli public has been brainwashed by stories and threats,” said Reshef who is best known in the country for leading the force which blocked the Egyptian army after it crossed the Suez Canal in the 1973, Yom Kippur or October War.
“We could be in an even stronger position to fight Islamic State if we concluded a political arrangement with the Palestinians which would allow for real security cooperation with the moderate Arab states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Jordan.”
The “Islamic State” commercial has also drawn fire in Amman, home to the Palestinian hip-hop group Torabyeh whose track is heard playing from the “ISIS” truck’s sound system in the Likud campaign advertisement.
“Netanyahu has to build on the legitimate and credible fears of the Israeli Jewish community…”
Zionist Union candidate and Labor Member of Kenesset, Erel Margalit thinks the Likud campaign increasingly smacks of desperation as Netanyahu’s party fails to definitively edge ahead of the centrist grouping in opinion surveys.
As of Monday morning, two respected polling companies came out with contradictory surveys. Geocartography predicts 27 seats for the Likud and 23 for Labor/Livni while TRI has Zionist Union at 25 and 23 seats for the Likud.
ISRAELI PRESIDENT Rivlin has stated that he will ask the party with the best chance of forming a “stable” coalition to form the next government.
“Netanyahu is projecting his fear and panic onto the public,” declared Margalit who noted that the “Islamic State” spot aired just days before the release of Comptroller’s report examining expenditure at the Prime Minister’s residence.
“It’s under this Prime Minister that kindergartners learned how to crawl under their desks with sirens blasting and tensions got to the place in Jerusalem where the light rail needs special protection,” said Margalit who believes the Labor Party is well positioned to attract Jewish and Arab voters looking for improvement in Israel’s diplomatic and economic standing.
Margalit, the founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners has been involved in start-up technology incubators for young Arab-Israelis in the Galilee.
“There is a chance to rally Israeli Arabs this time like we did with Rabin and demonstrate that being involved in our party can have more direct positive benefits than supporting small Arab Parties,” Margalit said.