The Central Elections Committee on Sunday rejected Likud's petition against V15, a group aiming to wrest the government from Benjamin Netanyahu's control, and Project 61, which publishes information about the government’s work.
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“This petition, which began with loud trumpeting, ends in a whisper," said Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, the committee chairman. "The petitioner’s conduct raises the question of whether the petition should have been submitted at all."
The ruling comes after Likud conducted a strenuous campaign against V15 (also called Victory 2015), including a press conference with party ministers and MKs that made major headlines. Likud claimed V15 was indirectly funding Likud’s rivals, thereby circumventing campaign finance laws.
Joubran required the petitioners to pay 8,000 shekels (about $2,100) to each of the respondents named in the petition: Meretz, Zionist Union, Hatnuah, V15 and One Voice. He ruled that no connection could be proven between the organization and the respondents.
Joubran determined that most of the evidence Likud presented to prove the alleged connection between V15 and the parties “is based on rumors and various publications on Facebook,” adding: “It is doubtful that a ‘like’ on Facebook, a post by a party activist supporting V15 or the picture of an activist from one of the organizations with the chairman of the Labor Party can constitute the required connection.”
Joubran said a connection would have to feature a “widespread organizational relationship or a relationship between the head of the parties (or senior officials) and those organizations. This relationship was not proven in any way.”
To Likud’s argument that V15 should have stated in its ads in whose name it was working, Joubran noted that the declared purpose of V15 is to change the current government, and it did not mention a particular party or Knesset slate.
Last week, after Likud failed to locate a “smoking gun” connecting Zionist Union with the V15 campaign, attorneys David and Shaul Shimron, representing Likud, withdrew their request to the Jerusalem District Court for a temporary injunction against V15’s campaign.
In response to Joubran’s ruling, V15 said: “Today it was proven finally that the prime minister and Likud are dealing only with creating spin to distract the public agenda from issues of principle such as the economy, society and security, for which they have no answers or solutions.
Molad – the Center for the Renewal of Democracy, which works to increase access on government policy in social, economic and political issues, and is conducting Project 61 (refering to the number of MKs needed to form a government), said in response to Joubran’s ruling:
“From the first moment there was no foundation for Likud’s fallacious petition. It had a single goal: to strike fear into organizations that legitimately criticize the government. Likud’s efforts to distract public attention from essential issues are very embarrassing. The prime minister and his people would do better, for a change, to see to the welfare of Israel’s citizens instead of trying to shut them up.”
On Sunday night V15 hung up a giant poster at the London Ministore shopping center in downtown Tel Aviv showing Netanyahu holding a magnifying class, beneath the message: "This is how small we are to him." The poster will remain in place for two weeks.
"The poster is intended to demonstrate what we all have felt for too long: that we don't count in the eyes of the Israeli prime minister - not when it comes to housing, or food, or security or even the United States," V15 said in a statement. "The time has come to switch to a different leadership."