Most Parties Are Waging Two Different Campaigns: In Hebrew and in Russian

All of the Likud's positive campaign messages in Russian focus on Sharon, without even making mention of the social and economic problems of special concern to the immigrant community.

The Likud's campaign jingle in Russian calls on immigrants from the former Soviet Union to lend Ariel Sharon a hand: "Only your vote for the Likud will give strength to Sharon." Featuring a somber beat, unlike the upbeat tune in its Hebrew version, the Russian-language advertisement explains that Sharon "needs to be strong to give strength to the people."

The Russian-language jingle, brimming with pathos, is aimed at translating the prime minister's popularity among the immigrants into support for the Likud, especially after the party's image was tarnished by numerous allegations of corruption.

In fact, MK Naomi Blumenthal was slated to head the Likud campaign among Russian-speaking immigrants, but was sidetracked by a police investigation into her alleged involvement in a vote-buying scheme prior to the Likud's internal elections. The efforts to target this Russian-speaking electorate thus came under the wing of the party's general campaign staff.

On Monday, just two weeks before the elections, the Likud presented its strategy for attracting this pool of voters. Seated alongside Ministers Limor Livnat and Tsippi Livne was Michael Gorlovski, No. 27 on the party's Knesset list, in the spot reserved for an immigrant representative.

While this marks the first time the Likud has reserved a safe spot on the ticket for an immigrant, party members doubt that someone so closely identified with National Union chairman Avigdor Lieberman can bring much electoral clout. Gorolovsky has not even been used in the party's radio advertisements.

All of the Likud's positive campaign messages in Russian focus on Sharon, without even making mention of the social and economic problems of special concern to the immigrant community.

The Likud negative advertisements in Russian will now target Shinui, depicting it as a leftist movement of Meretz dropouts. (Immigrants from the former Soviet Union will provide the equivalent of three Knesset seats for Shinui, according to the surveys.) "To believe that Shinui is right-wing is like fondling a whore," a new Russian-language Likud jingle suggests.

Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna is not currently seen as an electoral threat to the Likud among immigrant voters, but could also become a target of negative campaigning. In fact, a brochure has already been prepared featuring a distorted photograph of Mitzna underneath a headline reading: "No. 1 Danger" - a parody of Ehud Barak's "No. 1 Soldier" campaign in 1999 among Russian-speaking voters.

In general, the various parties are waging two different campaigns - one for the general electorate and another for Russian speakers. But the difference is not only a linguistic one, but also expresses a different focus.

For example, the Labor Party is presenting Mitzna to the general public as "trustworthy" - with the slogan "We believe in you Mitzna." On the other hand, he is mainly described in Russian as "strong." The Labor Party's campaign staff understood that it is hard to generate faith in a candidate who is largely unknown to the Russian immigrant community. He is thus portrayed as "strong," a highly valued characteristic among these voters. Accordingly, the campaign messages directed at this constituency focuses on Mitzna's separation plan and determination to combat terror, while failing to mention his readiness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Russian-language campaign of the National Union party is conducted to the beat of a military march, much unlike the oddly cheerful melody calling for the expulsion of Yasser Arafat. But there is not mention of the party's "transfer" platform. Instead, the party focuses on the fight against terror and the importance of "a strong state."

The Yisrael b'Aliyah party makes a conscious appeal to two different audiences. It hopes to attract undecided voters who usually support the Likud by portraying the party's leader, Natan Sharansky, as representing the "sane and clean" right wing. In addressing the Russian immigrant community, the party appeals to particularist sentiments, presenting itself as the party best suited to address the problems of immigrants.

Sometimes these two messages get confused. For example, Sharansky talks about the immigrants as saviors of Israeli culture and science, while also portraying the immigrant community as victims.

When it comes to social issues, Yisrael b'Aliyah comes up against advertisements by Meretz, where MK Roman Bronfman is trumpeting a call for reforming the National Insurance Institute (bituah leumi). (The Russian immigrants community has been hard hit by the erosion of social welfare benefits.) Meretz campaign ads targeted at the Russian-speaking population avoid the Palestinian issue and focus on the party's social agenda.

Meretz's Web site in Russian includes a provocative headline: "Sharansky will build public housing in Mombasa." This is a parody on Housing Minister Sharansky's explanation that he plans to build new housing in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel because Jews were killed there in a terror attack.

In the battle for every vote, even Yiddish makes an appearance. Alex Tanzer, No. 3 on the Center Party list and a long-time immigration activist, appeals in Yiddish to elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union whose fluency in Russian never caught up with their mother tongue, Yiddish.