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As Israel Set for Election, Netanyahu Releases Duet With Leading Pop Star

Video of the prime minister singing alongside Eden Ben Zaken drops online ahead of the first night of Hanukkah, to raise funds for charity helping senior citizens

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears alongside leading Israeli singer Eden Ben Zaken in a cover version of a well-known Israeli song released on Wednesday.

The rare musical appearance by Netanyahu, to benefit a charitable organization benefiting seniors, comes as Israel is likely headed for its fourth election in two years.

Netanyahu and 26-year-old Ben Zaken appear alongside senior citizens in the music video made to support the organization "Ken Lazaken." The two sing the late Arik Einstein's "Yesh Bi Ahava," or "I Have Love within Me" in Hebrew.

In a post on Twitter sharing the video, the prime minister called attention to the crisis of loneliness, and said that he is moved by the younger generation that is "showing up, in accordance with the guidelines," for their grandparents: "a population facing loneliness." He called on "anyone who can, to join."

Netanyahu's administration has come under scrutiny for the manner in which it cares for senior citizens, as well as its approach to curbing loneliness, or rather the shortcomings thereof. 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year, the effects of the loneliness pandemic hit Israel's population of senior citizens hard. In January 2018, Haaretz reported that nearly half of Israel's aging population struggled with loneliness. The quarantines and self-isolation measures imposed on Israelis, and in particular, at-risk populations, including older people, has exacerbated these feelings.

As reported by Haaretz in November, during the second coronavirus lockdown, Israel's emotional first aid hotline reported a sharp rise in calls over economic distress, loneliness and relationship issues.  It is worth noting that even now, the December holiday restrictions being contemplated by the coronavirus cabinet, make no exceptions for those living alone, as is the case in most European lockdown regulations.

Publication of the video comes a little over a week after the Knesset preliminarily voted to dissolve itself, and although it is not certain whether elections will take place and when, it is widely believe that they will take place in early 2021.  

Benjamin Netanyahu and Sarit Hadad at a campaign rally in 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

In February, Kan public broadcaster host Erel Segal was suspended after appearing in a video alongside Netanyahu, on the grounds that in appearing in "election propaganda," Segal had violated Kan's ethics rules.

Speaking at a Likud rally following Kan's decision, Netanyahu referred to it as a "joke" and a "shame," adding that those who appeared in the video came to him "with guitars, not darbuka [drums]," and "broke into a song I really like: 'Praise Jerusalem.'"

In 2012, appearances by Israeli performers at campaign events ignited a string of disputes among Israel's political parties over the legality of entertainers. After Israeli superstar Sarit Hadad appeared at a Likud campaign event, Yesh Atid submitted a complaint against her. Likud, in turn, threatened to file complaints against performances by Israeli performers at Labor and Meretz events.

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