Elections 2009 / Election Candidates Take Their Campaign to Tel Aviv Night Spots

Livni hits the dance floor at a night club, Labor Party rents out a pub in bid to reach out to young voters.

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Major intersections were always an important arena in Israeli election campaigns, but this time around, distributing fliers to impatient drivers has been replaced by downing shots in popular pubs. It appears that every self-respecting bar in Tel Aviv has been visited by politicians, generally from the three largest parties.

Last night, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hit the dance floor at Tel Aviv's Haoman 17 along with fellow Kadima members Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and MK Tzachi Hanegbi. The head of the party's youth campaign, MK Yohanan Plesner, is planning pub crawls for candidates locales including Jerusalem and Ashkelon.

"There's an electricity in the air" at these events, Plesner said. "It's not pathetic, because no one tries to be something they're not. It's just politicians talking with the pub-goers in a more comfortable manner."

Last week the Labor Party rented out Landen in Tel Aviv to watch the evening's televised election broadcasts, with alcohol. The party's youth campaign head, Maayan Amodai, said that party director general Eitan Cabel, as well as MK Shelly Yachimovich, Science Minister Ophir Pines-Paz and others have been taking part in the bar-hopping.

"They're people who enjoy and know how to have a good time," Amodai said. Last weekend the candidates visited Lehman Brothers, a bar at the Tel Aviv Port, and other outings are in the works. Amodai said most of the visits are to bars in Tel Aviv, "mainly because there are more places here. In other parts of Israel we hold other activities," she said.

"It creates a good, friendly atmosphere," Plesner said. "Last Thursday Tzipi walked around the Tel Aviv Port, drinking a little and talking with the revelers, and I can tell you they went simply nuts. The responses were excellent," Plesner said.

Tonight Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron will be out meeting younger voters at Landen, and tomorrow the Meretz Youth Wing will hold a party at The Apartment.

Meretz campaign manager Nissim Douek offers another perspective on the bar-hopping trend: "These rounds at the bars are ridiculous. When Jumas [Oron] goes somewhere, it's not just to cross it off his list and have photos taken. He comes not to drink but to talk, sometimes for three hours, with the people."

Likud did have plans to jump on the bar bandwagon, but they have not borne fruit. About six weeks ago a party was arranged at Tel Aviv's Villa Sokolov, with chairman Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance, but the military operations in Gaza led to its cancelation. Subsequent plans for bar visits have not been put into action.

Party workers seemed to be at a loss to explain the move from highway intersections to bars. "Maybe it's the green trend, maybe it's the winter or maybe simply the desire to work in a more focused fashion," Amodai said. A source in Kadima who did not want to be identified had another explanation: "Tzipi, as a woman and as someone with a clean reputation, is going strong among young people in Tel Aviv, and the direct activity with this group helps a lot."