Netanyahu's Party Alone in Opposing Transparent Online Election Propaganda

Likud voices objection to an appeal filed to Israel's Central Elections Committee that seeks to ban anonymous propaganda ahead of the April 9 vote

File photo: Election campaign poster with the image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lies among ballot papers at his party's election headquarters in Tel Aviv, March 18, 2015.
Dan Balilty/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party called on Israel's Central Elections Committee on Wednesday to forgo an appeal to ban anonymous online propaganda, making it the only party to publicly oppose such a ban ahead of the April 9 election.

Lawyers Shachar Ben Meir and Isaac Aviram appealed to the committee in December to extend a law banning anonymous election propaganda, so that it applies to online publicity, too, and not only to newspapers or billboards mentioned in the 1959 law.

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They said all parties must stand behind any publication on their behalf, including all comments or paid publicity. The appeal also urges the committee to order all candidates for public office to identify as such in any message sent on their behalf.

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In its response, which stands out from reactions by other parties, Likud said that the Central Elections Committee doesn't have the authority to discuss such matters, which require changes to the law. Other parties that responded to the appeal supported it.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said the appeal raises important issues that he wishes to look into in a special discussion.

Netanyahu has recently ordered Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and head of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky, to halt the advancement of a legislative reform on election propaganda, aimed at adapting it to the internet and multi-channel media.

The proposed reform includes the undoing of a ban on broadcasting propaganda in the 60 days leading up to the vote and transparency on social media propaganda, including paid comments. 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.