Benjamin Hussein Netanyahu, or, How a little bit of Obama goes a long way
The most plagiarized aspect of the Obama tale has been the appropriation of the 'Yes, we can' slogan.
Barack Hussein Obama may have been the 44th President of the U.S. for just two weeks, but for months now Israel's politicians have been on a quest to grab a dash of Obama in-a-bottle to enthrall the millions with a spirit of hope and change, even in an election where two of the front-runners are former prime ministers.
This scramble for the coattails has changed the ascetics of this Israeli political campaign, at least for the next 16 months or so before the next election is called. Nearly every party's banners have tried to mimic what can only be seen as a hopeful, Obama-esque theme.
Gone are geometrically-sound Stars of David of royal blue on white. This election's banners seems to all be cut from the same cloth, with identical sky blue Stars of David billowing as if thrust upon the winds of change, with headshots of party leaders looking off pensively, full of hope, floating out of the cotton ball backdrop like old friends in a fever dream.
Even the right-wing National Union party has adopted the same robin's egg blue Stars of David and fuzzy white backdrop motif, with Aryeh "MK least-like Obama" Eldad gazing westward off camera, promising a return to Zionism, return being a sort of change, in a way, maybe.
The most obviously mimicked and plagiarized aspect of the Obama tale has been the appropriation of the "Yes, we can" slogan so central to BHO's campaign. Starting months ago, the Shas party was the first and most blatant to claim the slogan, plastering buses across the country with the Shas logo and "Yes, we can!" in Hebrew. This campaign was presumably driven by the assumption that when people think of "Hope" and "change" and groundbreaking presidential campaigns, they think of the inclusiveness and progressiveness of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party, the party that brought you "gays cause Earthquakes" and "secular IDF soldiers are killedbecause they aren't observant."
After Shas, the most obvious attempt to claim some Obama fire came from Likud Starchild Benjamin Netanyahu. In an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post entitled, "Yes, We Can", Bibi praised Obama's victory, saying "this powerful sense of hope extends well beyond America's shores as people throughout the world try to bring the same optimism to their own countries."
The Likud party has even mimicked the style of the Obama campaign website, right down to the "click here to donate" prompts, and the links to Bibi on Facebook, Bibi on Twitter, Bibi on Youtube, Bibi on Flickr, everything short of Bibi on JDate.
The English site also features a video endorsement from an Anglo supporter, the same one who appeared on smiling in a front cover advertisement in Haaretz last week under the banner "I am Likud", or in German "Eich bin ein Likudnik." This takes the kindler-gentler Bibi theme to new extremes, showing the right-of-center (and of Obama) party as being no less harmless than a nice Jewish boy or girl.
There is no mention of the negative ads Likud plastered across Israel featuring Tzipi Livni's face with the slogan "It's too big for Livni", a a campaign that has drawn fire for being sexist.
For those who found the Shas-as-Obama allusion too-far fetched, perhaps the Likud comparison isn't too much of a stretch. After all, when you think of Barack Obama, don't you think of the Likud?
Either way, can't you imagine people of all races dancing in the streets to Journey's "Don't stop believing", over because the grandson of Jabotinsky supporters from Lithuania became the prime minister, again? One can almost picture the TV cameras zooming in on elderly Herut activists as they wipe tears from their eyes as they watch the exit polls at Likud HQ on election night.
Bibi's column states that the "priority of the next government of Israel will be to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons" - and the tax cuts he says are essential to bring economic stimulus to Israel.
Maybe the universal embrace of the "Yes, we can" mantra is simply smart politics. After all, like Obama showed, it has the potential to mean whatever the person saying, or hearing it, wants it to.
And maybe that's what Bibi and the hordes of wannabe MKs need: for Israelis to put their reservations to one side and see them as a symbol of a feeling of empowerment, an awakening from a slumber, a new dawn in Israel, regardless of how far the candidate ultimately falls from that promise.