Worthy Christian News » World News » Barak, Sharon Tangle in New Election Ads
The special Israeli election for prime minister heated up on Tuesday when local air waves were opened to a steady diet of campaign ads for the Labor and Likud candidates, with both parties depicting the opponent as dangerous.
Both camps claimed they had gained the edge among undecided voters in the TV and radio ads unveiled yesterday. Gallup pollsters quickly tested the waters and found 45% of the public thought the commercials by Likud chairman Ariel Sharon were better, while 25% preferred those of incumbent Ehud Barak of Labor. These results mirrored recent polling numbers giving Sharon a similar 20% lead over Barak, indicating no shift in opinion yet among the uncommitted.
Desperate to bring out the Arab vote, Barak premiered with an ad expressing regret for the first time for the death of 13 Israeli Arabs in the Rosh Hashana riots three months ago. Analysts say Barak has no chance of winning without overwhelming support from the Israeli Arab sector, which makes up 15% of the electorate and has threatened to boycott the voting.
Barak also admitted to making mistakes in not considering the advice of others or disclosing more to the public about his concessions in peace talks, failures he promised to remedy if re-elected.
Otherwise, the Barak ads followed a familiar pattern of negatively attacking Sharon for having no real plan for peace and depicting Sharon as a serial opponent of peace for rejecting treaties with Egypt and Jordan and the Oslo accords. In an ominous tone, the Labor spin placed a special emphasis on Sharon's role in staging the Lebanon War, and contrasted this by crediting Barak with getting Israel out of Lebanon last year. But the Barak team drew sharp criticism from the Central Elections Commission for using film footage of the emergency IDF withdrawal last May that showed one smiling soldier who was recently killed while serving in Gaza. Labor officials apologized to his family today.
Barak also enraged Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert by charging on a political TV talk show Tuesday night that just before the Camp David summit, Olmert sought him out to show maps and aerial photographs and to offer practical solutions for dividing Jerusalem. Olmert shot back hard today, saying this never happened and that it was Barak who called the meeting to try to persuade the Mayor to accompany him to the Camp David talks. Olmert said the two may have glanced at some maps in the past, but that he quickly turned down Barak's invitation to join the Israeli delegation at the secluded summit in July.
With public trust in Barak and the status of Jerusalem important issues in this election, the escalating skirmish between Barak and Olmert could prove interesting to follow. In the 1999 elections, Olmert was blasted by fellow Likudniks after conferring with Barak on his plans for the capital city and then publicly opposing the use of the Likud slogan "Barak will divide Jerusalem." But after Camp David, Olmert said Barak obviously had deceived him, an accusation that has riled Barak and added to his image as an untrustworthy leader.
Barak strategists say future ads will offer specifics on how he intends to lead the country in a second term. Even the current wave of violence will be directly addressed and explained in commercials scheduled for the next few days, they revealed.
Sharon's campaign team took a much softer line in their ads, stressing their candidate's experience and stressing that Barak has disappointed many voters by breaking his 1999 election promises. Employing a traditional "jingle," Likud focused on Sharon as a proven leader, who will keep Jerusalem united and bring about a secure peace.
Likud politicians angrily denounced what they regarded as "aggressive and exaggerated" use of Lebanon-related bereavement in Barak's election promotions. They said these negative broadcasts breached campaign norms and reflected panic in Barak's camp. Senior Likud sources also claimed public opinion surveys show Labor's negative emphasis on Sharon's links to Lebanon has been ineffective so far.
When Barak issued an on-air challenge that Sharon be more specific about his peace plans, the Likud countered with a statement charging, "We are still waiting to hear Barak explain in Labor's commercials why he is prepared to divide Jerusalem, concede the Jordan Valley, give away the Temple Mount to the Palestinians, uproot territory from the Negev, and return refugees to Israel."
Sharon said that he is surprised by all the negativity arising from the Labor camp, saying that "regardless of who wins, after the election, we all will have to work together."
Likud MKs and activists gathered in a Ramat Aviv hotel last night to watch the premiere of the TV ads on large screens, cheering Sharon's appearances and jeering a Labor commercial featuring a stone-faced Shimon Peres offering a painful endorsement of Barak. The Peres commercial was a crowd-pleaser: "Loser, loser!" chanted the Likud loyalists. "Liar!" they yelled whenever Peres complimented Barak.
As a precaution, the Likud has even prepared ads in the event that Peres - who is faring better than Barak in the polls - stands as a last-minute replacement. Likud leaders also have stepped up attacks on Peres in recent days, declaring that Barak is continuing Peres' policy of negotiating with the Palestinians while under fire.
Despite Peres' on-the-air support for Barak, tensions between the two have not evaporated. Barak angered Peres and his supporters when he declared in a Monday radio interview that in all the election campaigns Peres had been involved in, he had always led in the opinion polls, only to lose in the actual vote.
"It would be better for someone who is being defeated in the opinion polls not to speak about them at all," a source close to Peres responded bitterly.
Even if Barak decides to quit the race for prime minister in favor of Peres, the Labor party does not have enough money to start a new campaign featuring Peres, a party source said Monday night. "New commercials cost money; we simply can't afford a new candidate," he said.
Labor Party secretary-general Ra'anan Cohen denied it will be decision day for Barak when the next round of polls come out on Friday, saying that "the only crucial day will be February 6, when the people of Israel choose between the way of peace of Barak and the way to a dead end and possibly war with Sharon."
In the latest Geocartography poll released yesterday, Sharon drew 55% of respondents, while Barak tallied 31%. Sharon also leads Peres 49% to 40%.
And in a new blow to Barak this evening, MK Dan Meridor of the disbanding Center party, a former Likud member, announced that he would support and vote for Sharon, due to his opposition to Barak's peace policies. Meridor also expressed his willingness to participate in the Likud's election broadcasts. Fellow Center party and former Likud veteran Ronni Milo resigned from Barak's Cabinet on Sunday and may endorse Sharon as well in coming days.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.