Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have settled on a campaign message ahead of Israel’s March 17 parliamentary elections: He’s the only grown-up in Israeli politics.
In an ad from earlier this month, Netanyahu is portrayed as a kindergarten teacher dealing with a roomful of tykes representing his political rivals. He tells the bearded “Evet”—the Russian first name of foreign minister Avidgor Liberman—to share. He instructs mini Yair Lapid, the former finance minister who was fired in December after repeatedly clashing with Netanyahu, not to break things. The little kid in the yarmulke, representing ultra-hawkish economy minister Naftali Bennett, plays with tanks and fights with Lapid. A tiny Tzipi Livni—former justice minister and Bibi ally-turned-rival—is an uncontrollable destructive force who completely ignores him.
The idea here is pretty clear: Netanyahu and his Likud party are serious adults while their rivals on the left and right are squabbling brats. Although given that his last government collapsed in disarray after less than two years, and in the ad he’s not really able to get the room under control, it seems like viewers could also take away the message that Netanyahu isn’t able to keep his government in order.
In either case, Israel’s Central Elections Committee banned the ad due to rules against putting children under 15 in campaign commercials. Undeterred, Netanyahu released a follow-up this week: the “Bibi-sitter.”
After Netanyahu surprises a young couple by showing up at their door to baby-sit their kids, he asks, “Where are the children?”—a reference to the first commercial.
He then tells the parents, who look shocked that the prime minister is going to watch their kids, that it’s either him, “Tzipi,” or “Buji”—the nickname of Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, who was conspicuously absent from the kindergarten class in the first ad.
Oh no, not them, the parents exclaim. “By the time we get home, we won’t have a house left,” the wife says of Buji, who would “even give away the carpet,” a reference to Herzog’s comparatively dovish stance on Israeli-Palestinian talks. Tzipi, on the other hand, will have “moved on to the neighbors” by the time they’re back from their date. Livni, originally a member of Netanyahu’s Likud, has switched parties several times and is now in a previously unlikely alliance with Herzog’s Labor.
In a last barb at the left-leaning coalition, the couple returns home to find Netanyahu under a blanket on the couch. They say “shalom,” which is both a greeting and the word for peace, to which the Bibi-sitter replies, “not unconditionally.” Zing!
Both ads are pretty condescending, but based on the latest polls, the prime minister can probably afford to be cocky.