Bayit Yehudi ad banned for implying cooperation with Likud

This campaign advertisement by Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) has been ruled a violation of Israel’s campaign laws.

Bayit Yehudi

The ad, showing Likud leader and PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennet, says “Strong together, choosing Bennet”. Bayit Yehudi is mainly a Judean/Samarian (West Bank) settlers’ party, and is competing for votes on the Israeli right with Likud. The two are almost certain to go into coalition together after the election.

However, the ad was banned on the grounds that it gives the impression the two parties are cooperating in the campaign and committed to working together after the election. As there is no such mutual declaration, the ad was deemed misleading. (My account and the ad image are based on an IBA news segment from Friday, 18 July.)

Note the interesting contrast with the campaign in today’s election in the German state of Lower Saxony.

Relations between Bennet and Netanyahu are known to be strained. When asked about that recently, Bennet suggested that their tensions are nothing that 15 seats could not overcome.

Bennet has been the sensation of this campaign, with his party originally thought to be likely to win 7-9 seats but polling in the 15-18 range in recent weeks. Some polls have shown it second, after the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu alliance. More likely it will finish third, behind Labor.

The election is Tuesday.


The ad is photographed by me from a news broadcast of Israel Broadcast Authority, carried in the USA by World Harvest Television.

6 thoughts on “Bayit Yehudi ad banned for implying cooperation with Likud

  1. That’s a rather high degree of judicial involvement by courts in sanctioning electoral campaign statements as “false and misleading”.

    Australian courts have always refused to touch this one. Back when the Commonwealth Electoral Act contained a ban on “misleading an elector in relation to the casting of his vote”, the High Court in 1980 construed this quite narrowly as meaning only statements that would cause a voter to fill out a ballot paper in a way that would render it either spoiled (“Write an X beside the names of three candidates…”) or unreflective of the voter’s candidate preferences (“The numbers show how many points you assign each candidate. So write a 4 next to the candidate you like best, a 3 next to the one you like second-best, and so forth…”). The Justices refused to extend it to statements that might cause a voter to settle on an order of candidate preferences that did not represent her “true” interests or opinions (“Don’t vote for Nixon if you want an end to the Vietnam War – he’s secretly planning to escalate it!”).

    After this judicial gutting of the provision (as a matter of statutory interpretation, note, and not of Constitutional rights, which got short shrift in the High Court of Australia before 1987-88), Parliament repealed the provision in 1984. Laws of defamation remain applicable to campaigning politicians, although the court would allow some leeway here too.

    Statements are regularly made on the hustings here that (eg) “A vote for the Liberals is a vote for the Nationals” (the Qld Liberals deemed these fighting words by Labor, and tried to have the advertisements banned, just under a decade before the two conservative parties merged) or, Tasmania 1989, Labor and Greens avowing that they would not form a coalition together after the election, which of course they did. (Liberal premier Robin Gray cited this breach of promise as justification for his asking the Governor for a second election before the House could even meet). Winston Peters pulled a similar stunt in NZ after its first MMP election in 1996. I wonder how much of the hatred directed at Nick Clegg might have been defused had the LibDems said honestly before May 2010, “We may well form a coalition with the Tories if they offer us a better deal than Labour.”

    Back to Israel… reading between the lines, I don’t get the impression that BN and NB themselves were aggrieved at imputations that they might form an alliance after the election. So was the complaint brought by an official prosecutor, or is there open standing for any annoyed citizen to complain?

  2. Tom, I think part of the problem was that the ad shows Bennett and Netanyahu in a way that implies Netanyahu is endorsing it. I’m not sure what the Australian equivalent would be—maybe if a Green party candidate used posters of herself and Kevin Rudd?

  3. Vasi, the analogy to Israel would be if Labor and the Greens were running joint Senate tickets, as the conservative parties do. – Not merely swapping preferences but a single column with a Lib, then a Nat, then a second Lib. With, realistically, at most only 2 or 3 out of 5 or 6 Senate seats per State likely to be won by the Coalition, the “zipper” model was seen to ensure adequate PR among the allied parties .
    (In Qld, where the Nats were larger, the positions were reversed, but same basic idea. The top spot is the gold medal.)
    In fact, the Israeli case is even more closely entwined because a single list excludes the possibility that voters may number candidates in their own order, as some Coalition supporters have done under STV-PR (eg, 1980 when the much-cited Premier Bjelke-Peterson pushed his wife Flo into the #1 slot – a lot of Queenslanders voted Coalition while departing from the official ticket order: NB no above-the-line options back then).

  4. Tom, that’s not a good analogy because the two parties weren’t cooperating. The Coalition analogy works for the Likud-Israel Beiteinu list. It does not work for Bayit Yehudi because they were not cooperating.

    It’s roughly equivalent to the Greens putting a photograph of a popular Labor leader (I don’t really think they have one of those right now, but let’s say Paul Keating) on their election material with a comment like “Vote Bandt for a Labor government.” The ad would be implying that Labor was cooperating with the Greens to get Bandt elected, which they certainly wouldn’t be because Melbourne is a marginal electorate which they want back. I don’t know what Australian law would be like regarding that situation (I know in the States, while such a stunt would be widely ridiculed, it isn’t illegal), but in Israel it’s illegal to imply you’re cooperating with someone in your election ads unless they actually are cooperating with you.

  5. Aaarrrggghhh, you’re right – would you believe I was confusing “Israel Beiteinu” (Israel Our Home) with “Bayit Yehudi” (Jewish Home).

    Truly a (very) little Hebrew is a dangerous thing.

    For my next trick I am going to explain patiently to Vasi that of course Nick Clegg is Japanese, because he’s a Liberal Democrat. (-;

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