Likud: Online Propaganda Transparency 'Contradicts Foundations of Our Democracy’

Central Election Committee chair says amendment which requires transparency in online election propaganda would make it harder for foreign countries to influence upcoming Knesset election

Likud election campaign 2015. 'It's either them or us. Only the Likud. Only Netanyahu.'
Ilan Assayag

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party said on Tuesday that it objects to fast-tracking through the Knesset a proposal for a legislative amendment that bans anonymous propaganda on the internet, although the election committee chair said the amendment would help block foreign countries' intervention in the upcoming April 9 election.

Israel passed a law in 1959 stating that all ads – in the press and on billboards – must bear the name and contact information of the person responsible for commissioning it. The amendment that Likud opposes would expand the prohibition to the Internet.

The party's legal adviser, Avi Halevy, told the Central Election Committee in a letter that the party also opposed an initiative floated by election committee chair, Justice Hanan Melcer, that instead of passing a law ahead of the election, the parties would sign a pact abjuring anonymous promotion on internet.

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Melcer explained that banning nameless propaganda would make it harder for other countries to influence the Israeli election. The amendment had been sponsored by the government but was blocked by Netanyahu.

No party other than Likud had expressed any opposition to the internet amendment.

Halevy wrote to Melcer on Tuesday that use of internet had been highly significant in the recent elections, and the parties hadn't found it necessary to enact laws or sign pacts that would carry "criminal implications." There is no reason to behave otherwise, to contradict the foundations of our constitutional rule," he wrote.

The legal adviser added that the need to carefully check the amendments proposed to the law and their implications would preclude the amendment's passage before the election anyway.

"The idea of substituting the amendments to the propaganda law, which is supposed to be passed by the Knesset, the authorized legislative authority, with a pact that would be accepted by a few of the dozens of existing parties is not appropriate to this case," Halevy wrote.

The idea of expanding the prohibition to anonymous ads to the realm of the internet was raised by private-sector lawyers Shachar Ben Meir and Isaac Aviram. Netanyahu however recently ordered that the amendment be suspended based on the findings of a committee, headed by the former President of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinisch, that looked into adapting the 1959 law to the internet age.

Netanyahu argued he wants to study the bill before advancing it, but political sources say he's concerned about its impact on his electoral campaign.