The Central Elections Committee fined Habayit Hayehudi NIS 72,000 yesterday for not taking down election posters where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears alongside Habayit Hayehudi chief Naftali Bennett.
Netanyahu's joint slate linking his Likud party and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu submitted the petition.
The election committee's chairman, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, said he had ordered the posters taken down because “such an ad could create the misleading impression that the prime minister and Mr. Bennett had gotten together and a vote for Habayit Hayehudi meant a vote for the Likud-Beiteinu slate.”
Rubinstein had ruled on Friday against the posters, which appeared throughout the country. He said the right-wing party’s noncompliance had shown contempt for his decision.
The fine is the highest so far in the election campaign.
Rubinstein said the delay in removing the posters gave one “the feeling of an attempt to disobey the order either out of hope it would be rescinded or in light of the approaching election.”
Habayit Hayehudi appealed the decision, saying that its sign company does not work on Fridays. It said the websites nrg and Ynet, which also ran the ads, were closed on Saturday, so those ads couldn't be removed either.
Rubinstein did not accept this reasoning.
“It is reasonable that the various websites, which broadcast 23 hours a day and are continually updated, could find an official on call to reply to the respondent,” he said.
Following a second ruling by Rubinstein at 11 P.M. Saturday, Habayit Hayehudi campaigners began removing the ads. But only at 11 A.M. Sunday did the party’s attorney report that the website ads had been discontinued and the street ads were being removed or Netanyahu’s image was being covered.
Rubinstein viewed the delay as foot-dragging and issued the fine.