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Opening of Election Campaign Provides Israelis with Only Tv Entertainment Program

The Knesset election campaign opening on television last nigh was more theatrical than political. The half hour of air time allotted for the messages of all parties was in any event a welcome relief for viewers deprived of TV this week by the ongoing strike of broadcast journalists.

The Supreme Court ordered the electioneering to begin for the purpose of informing the voters of the positions of the parties on various issues. The journalists complied, lifting their blackout for 30 minutes, after which the screens went dark again.

The show itself was a testimonial to the methods of Madison Avenue: entertain the public and they will buy your product, or in this case, vote for the sponsoring party.

The Labor Alignment opted for light comedy. Its segment was opened by the popular “Gashas Hahivatrio, known for their comic skits, who told the viewers “I too used to vote Likud. I too made a mistake.” That confession of repentance was followed by film clips of the Alignment troika–Shimon Peres, former Premier Yitzhak Rabin and former President Yitzhak Navon–who summed up their political credos in the few seconds allowed them.

LABOR SEEKS SEPHARDIC VOTE

Labor’s stress was clearly on wooing the Oriental community which voted heavily for Likud in the last two elections. Apart from the fact that Navon himself is Sephardic, the voters were shown Peres as a pleasant family man sitting at home with his grandson, one of whose parents happens to be Sephardic. The faces of unmistakeably Oriental Jews were in fact very much in evidence throughout Labor’s commercial.

Likud went in for endorsements, featuring film clips of people from all walks of life who said they supported Likud.

Another clip was of a meeting of the Likud ministers. The camera zoomed in for a close-up of Premier Yitzhak Shamir wearing an unusually stern, nononsense expression in contrast to the paternal smile he normally presents to the public. There were also views of the country, with emphasis on the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem which puzzled some observers since it is the site of Islamic shrines and an emotional issue for many Jews.

Likud’s most ubiquitous slogan was “The people want Likud”, a direct retort to Labor’s “You need the Alignment” slogan. The voters will have to decide between what, presumably they “want” and what presumably they “need.”

According to Likud “the poor neighborhoods support Likud” and “traditional Jews support Likud.” There were also clips of former Premier Menachem Begin signing the peace treaty with Egypt in Washington in 1979.

The Lebanon situation, easily the most divisive issue debated in Israel these days, was glossed over by both major parties. Labor criticized the government’s policies, but only mildly. Likud prided itself for securing “peace for Galilee.”

The smaller parties on the left wing of the political spectrum, Shinuil and Shulamit Aloni’s Civil Rights Movement, were sharply critical of the Lebanon war. Both aimed their campaign messages at Labor supporters, claiming that by voting for them they had a better chance of moulding future policy than by voting the Alignment ticket.

The National Religious Party warned observant Jews that the State-subsidized religious education system would be endangered without the NRP. It directed its message to voters who might support the more ultra-Orthodox Aguda Israel party, implying that only the NRP can strengthen the influence of the religious camp.

Tomi, which represents a largely Sephardic, low income constituency, featured its leader, Aharon Abu-Hatzeira, in a fireside style chat. Former Finance Minister Yigael Hurwitz plugged his new Ometz party which calls for economic austerity and a broad-based national unity government.

Mordechai Ben-Porat, a member of the late Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s now defunct Telem party, stressed his experience and personal integrity. All of the various parties’ messages were pre-recorded.

Drama critics observed, afterwards that unless the broadcast journalists end their strike, the election programs will run away with the ratings. They would be the only show in town.

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