Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a new campaign video, which warns that the Islamic State will invade Israel if voters cast their ballots for the opposition.
The video released Monday opens with a Palestinian rap song and footage of Islamic State fighters driving on a rural road in a white pickup truck decorated with a bumper sticker reading: "Just not Bibi," referring to Netanyahu's nickname. Two men stand in the bed of the truck, waving the standard black flags of the so-called caliphate. The driver, who is sporting a black balaclava, pulls up next to another car with an Israeli man behind the wheel.
Speaking Hebrew, the bearded Islamic State fighter in the passenger seat asks the Israeli driver, "How do we get to Jerusalem, bro?"
The man answers, "Take a left."
The video then cuts to a shot of a black background, to which digital bullet holes and the slogan, "The left will give in to terror" is added. In the next shot, the militants are seen firing gunshots into the air and driving around a bend as the advertisement ends.
Netanyahu reportedly took to Facebook after posting the video to criticize his left-leaning opponents, politicians Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, who belong to the Hatnuah liberal political party and Labor parties, respectively.
"This time choose: Likud headed by Netanyahu or a weak and submissive leftist government with Tzipi and Bougie [Herzog]," Netanyahu wrote. The Likud Party is Netanyahu's center-right political party.
The new political advertisement comes just weeks before the closely fought March 17 elections, with Likud slightly ahead in the polls, which would keep Netanyahu in power. Not surprisingly, the campaign advertisement has sparked heated discussion on all sides. It has even provoked a reaction from Torabyeh, the Palestinian rap group behind the song that is sampled throughout the spot.
According to Haaretz, the lyrics of the song used in the video are: "Ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to be buried in the soil where my grandfather is buried. And ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to be a soldier and belong to Fatah, Hamas and Abbas."
In a statement on Facebook, Torabyeh said it would take legal action against "those responsible" for the ad and accused the Likud party of distorting its lyrics and damaging its reputation.
"The use of the song in the particular context cannot be considered anything but deliberate propaganda of the Zionist right for the purpose of electoral propaganda and attacking the so-called Zionist 'left wing,'" Torabyeh wrote in the post, saying the advertisement implicates members of the group are terrorists by associating it with the Islamic State, and even puts the group's lives at risk.
While Netanyahu has employed the terrorism angle for his campaign, his opponents have latched onto a report that accuses the prime minister of financial malfeasance. Throughout the election campaign, the opposition has accused Netanyahu of being out of touch and the scandal dredged up in the new report has given this line renewed energy.
Israel's financial watchdog released the report Tuesday detailing the prime minister and his wife's heavy spending on things like food, furniture, and landscaping at both their official and private homes — all on the public dime. One odd allegation to come out of the findings is that the couple kept the money from returning recyclable bottles bought with government funds.
Netanyahu has fired back at the focus on his supposed lavish lifestyle, saying it is a distraction from important issues like security. While he said he respected the report, he slammed what he called an ongoing media campaign to oust him from office.
"There is absolutely no indication of any assault on the public's integrity and certainly no indication of any criminal transgressions," he said, according to the Associated Press.
Aside from campaign mudslinging, Netanyahu's upcoming trip to the US to address the American Congress has also come under scrutiny by Israel's election commission. The speech, which has been controversial in the US as well as Israel, will focus on nuclear talks with Iran. Controversy has stemmed from the fact that the speech will take place just two weeks before voters head the polls.
Salim Joubran, the head of the election commission, has taken action to curb any campaign boost Netanyahu might receive from the event. The election chief ordered the speech to air on Israeli television with a 5 minute delay to give broadcasters enough time to cut out partisan statements.
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