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Israel is Blitzed by T.v. Ads As Campaign Careens to June 23

With elections just three weeks away, Labor and Likud began a television campaign blitz Tuesday night aimed at winning votes on June 23.

But it remains to be seen whether the public, already jaded by election propaganda, will respond to more of the same on the tube, political pundits said.

The main themes of the two parties’ commercials became evident in the first 40 minutes of prime time. Labor depicted Likud as a party grown fat and corrupt after too many years in office.

Likud attacked Labor for trying to hide its dovish feathers behind the hawkish image of Yitzhak Rabin, who was known as a tough defense minister.

Likud’s opening spot showed Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir promising in 1988 to launch a peace process and bring in waves of immigrants. A quick fade to the Madrid peace conference opening and Ethiopians arriving on Operation Solomon showed his promises fulfilled.

Shamir came on himself to assert the task was only half done and promised full employment and complete absorption under a Likud regime.

In a separate clip, the prime minister spoke a few words in Russian, and a Russian version of Likud’s campaign jingle was sung.

Labor, as expected, devoted its first commercial exclusively to Rabin. It showed footage of him as a young military commander in 1948, as chief of staff in 1967, then as ambassador to the United States, as prime minister from 1974 to 1977 and as minister of defense in the 1980s.

Likud retaliated with clips of Labor figures like Abba Eban and Ezer Weizman saying in the past that Rabin was unfit to be prime minister.

Labor’s next commercial showed Likud leaders Ariel Sharon and David Levy fiercely criticizing Shamir.

A Labor spot showing cigar-smoking men and expensively dressed women used voice-over and a montage of newspaper clippings to depict Likud as a party gone bad with corruption.

Labor and Likud can each be expected to respond to the other’s jibes and jabs in the nights ahead.

But political observers wonder how many voters will bother watching.

Since the last election campaign four years ago, an alternative second television channel has begun broadcasting, with an estimated million viewers. Many households are hooked up to cable television, which offers a choice of 30-odd foreign channels to watch.

If the partisan dogfight fails to sustain its attention, the Israeli public will simply switch elsewhere.

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