Feisty Israeli campaign gets personal

2015-02-02 21:08
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jerusalem - Forget the deadlocked Palestinian peace process or the Iranian nuclear programme. The latest political fracas in Israel is over whether the prime minister's wife kept the deposit when she recycled bottles from state functions.

Even by the notoriously feisty standards of Israeli politics, the campaign for parliament on 17 March, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fourth term, has been particularly bruising.

With opinion polls predicting a close race between Netanyahu's Likud party and a centre-left opposition alliance, the focus has been on personalities and allegations of wrongdoing rather than substance.

"This is a mudslinging war," declared Hanan Crystal, a well-regarded political analyst on Israel Radio.

"Where all the negativity will lead, nobody knows."

An early target has been Netanyahu's wife, Sara, a psychologist and former flight attendant who seldom speaks in public but has often been the butt of criticism in the press for her perceived imperiousness.

Israeli newspapers are full of accusations about Sara failing to return to national coffers the refunds gained from recycling bottles used at the prime minister's official Jerusalem residence, the argument being that taxpayers paid for the beverages so the state should get the refund.

The Netanyahus' lawyers have said the money was used as petty cash by household staff, and that the family did pay funds back. But that has not helped quell a storm, compounded by old allegations about the state having paid for the Netanyahus' garden furniture at their private home.

The prime minister has denied the allegations and called on the media to focus on him rather than his wife, while also taking to Facebook to accuse his political rivals of "orchestrating a harmonious media onslaught of recycled, humiliating and false" charges against him.

Us or him

With the election so tight - the latest polls suggest the centre-left alliance will win 24 or 25 seats in the 120-member Knesset, one or two ahead of Likud - personality politics is seen as a key driver of swing votes. The polarising figure of Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader since state founder David Ben-Gurion, makes him fair game.

The centre-left slogan is: "It's us or him." Netanyahu's slogan is: "It's us or them."

Generally, security is the dominant issue in Israeli elections, which have always resulted in coalition governments. But since Netanyahu is perceived as strong on that front, the opposition has looked elsewhere for leverage.

"There has been an extreme process where people care more about personalities and less about parties and ideologies than they did before," said Gideon Rahat, a political scientist at Hebrew University. "That's how we wind up with all these personal attacks."

While the Netanyahus have been on the receiving end of most of the mudslinging so far, the centre-left is not unsullied.

Likud has accused the opposition of a rules breach by receiving funds from the United States to finance advertisements urging Israelis to vote for "Anyone but Netanyahu".

Since Israeli law allows political parties to accept foreign contributions, police and other legal authorities have not opened an investigation.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.