Israeli Right-wing Activists Take to the Web to Keep Their MKs in Line

Activists are sent the e-mail addresses, Facebook links and cellphone numbers of Knesset members, making it easy to keep up the pressure.

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Right-wing activists are becoming expert at using the Internet to rally the rank and file, "driving the MKs crazy," as one Likud member put it, to support controversial legislation and the West Bank settlements.

Activists are sent the e-mail addresses, Facebook links and cellphone numbers of Knesset members, making it easy to keep up the pressure.

Online political activism has hitched its battlewagon to the stars of social networking.

Going into the cabinet meeting several weeks ago to vote on the prisoner-exchange deal to free Gilad Shalit, the ministers left their cellphones outside, as usual. When they came out their phones were inundated by text messages from right-wing activists urging them to vote against the agreement.

"The right-wing lobby is the most dominant body in Likud. Their activists are always in the Knesset, either waiting in the cafeteria to talk to the MKs or knocking on their office doors," a Likud MK says.

"Right-wing activists are driving the MKs crazy with text messages, telephone calls and e-mails. Sometimes they post reports on their websites or in e-mails urging people to call MKs, attaching all the phone numbers. They petition MKs, ask for their opinions and then text the quote to every member of the Likud Central Committee."

The activists pressure Likud MKs to raise a certain issue - say the evacuation of illegal outposts in the West Bank or a construction freeze - in faction meetings, Knesset committees and other forums.

"Even when rockets were fired on the south the Likud faction dealt only with the risk of demolition hovering over a neighborhood in Beit El," says an MK. "They distribute material, pictures and clips; they work in an intelligent and calculated way."

The right-wing lobby has at its disposal some 10,000 to 12,000 West Bank settlers who recently registered as Likud members and are expected to vote in the next party primary en bloc. No Likud MK can risk losing so many votes, especially the younger MKs who will not get into the Knesset without them. These parliamentarians include Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely, Zion Pinyan, Ofir Akunis and Carmel Shama-Hacohen.

Another dominant group is the Likud National Staff (Hamateh Haleumi Balikud ), which conducted the Likud census in the settlements. .

Its activists told people that registering as members does not mean having to vote for Likud. Being party members would enable them to influence Likud's candidates for the next Knesset and the party's moves on the peace process.

The group maintains a website, sends out e-mails and campaigns among Likud members. It works with settler leaders in the West Bank such as Benny Katzover of Samaria and Itzik Shadmi of Binyamin.

The committees' field coordinators gather pictures and information that is later processed and sent online. The committees and Likud National Staff work in coordination with the Knesset's Eretz Israel caucus, headed by MKs Zeev Elkin (Likud ) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union ).

Another group is the Yesha Council-affiliated Israel Sheli (My Israel ), headed by Ayelet Shaked of Tel Aviv. The group, whose Facebook page has 70,000 friends, wants spy Jonathan Pollard freed from U.S. prison and campaigns against Army Radio broadcaster Razi Barkai and the proliferation of Sudanese refugees in the country.

Shaked, who worked with Netanyahu when he was in the opposition, has volunteers spreading announcements and clips on the web at a rapid pace. This week the group published the White House's telephone number and called on people to protest the fact that Pollard was still behind bars.

Israel Sheli's attempt to take part in the social protest as part of a coalition of right-wing organizations failed. This week, however, it got several hundred people to attend a rally outside Likud's headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Financed by the Yesha Council, Israel Sheli has a volunteer staff, a media adviser and a website, but mostly relies on its Facebook page. Mattot Arim, headed by Susie Dym of Rehovot, is another group of right-wing activists that operates mainly on the Internet. The group sends out e-mails and publishes a report every six months on the activities of right-wing MKs and ministers.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: אס-אם-אסים, מיילים, ודירוגים: כך משפיעים פעילי ימין על ח"כים



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