Stop the presses! Bibi has a sense of humour and can be warm and fuzzy.
But will that be enough to get him re-elected?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has released a brilliant TV ad – available with English subtitles at http://tinyurl.com/n6s7qvt – that presents the PM as the only candidate who can be trusted to safeguard the future of Israel.
It’s hilarious, but its messages are also clever and incisive, and skewer the perceived weaknesses of the other leading candidates. It also touches on the key issues of Israel’s March 17 election.
The ad opens as a harried young couple waits for the babysitter to arrive. When the doorbell rings, the babysitter turns out to be a casually dressed and goofily grinning Netanyahu, who calls himself a “Bibi-Sitter.”
“But you’re the prime minister,” the mother gasps. “You’re going to take care of our children?”
Netanyahu says it’s either him or “Tzipi-and-Buji.”
He’s referring to former Likud mainstay Tzipi Livni, who jumped ship to join the ideologically confused Kadima (Forward) party in 2005, then started her own centrist party, Hatnuah (The Movement) after losing the Kadima leadership in 2012.
She’s now joined forces with “Buji,” the nickname for Labor party leader Isaac Herzog, in a new movement called the Zionist Union.
“No, no, no!” the husband exclaims. “Buji? Our children will have to take care of him. By the time we get home, we won’t have a house left. He’ll even give away the carpet.”
They all shudder.
And Tzipi? “Stay in one place for two hours?” the wife says with a roll of her eyes.
“By the time we get back, she’ll have moved on to the neighbours,” Netanyahu adds.
In less than a minute, the ad has dismissed Likud’s main rivals. The implication is that Herzog would destroy the economy, and pursue a policy of peace at all costs that would cede far too much territory to the Palestinians. As for Livni, the ad suggests that she’s changed parties and ideologies so much that no one knows what she stands for besides trying to get elected.
Netanyahu then addresses the camera: “This election, you choose who will care for our children. This election, Likud is the only choice.”
In other words, the Bibi-Sitter is the security-minded candidate who can be trusted to safeguard the future of Israel as a Jewish state.
In a final stroke of cleverness, the ad shows the PM, snuggled under a blanket, eating popcorn and smiling as he watches a video of himself playing with the children. It’s clear that the children – the people of Israel – are safe and sound.
The happy parents pop their heads through the door and say, “Shalom,” the colloquial Hebrew greeting whose literal meaning is “Peace.”
“Not unconditionally,” Netanyahu whispers.
Slam dunk. In a minute and 15 seconds, we have the Likud version of the issues and the candidates.
Do Israelis trust their future to leaders with an ever-changing ideology, who might sell out the country’s future in the name of short-term peace?
Or do they trust the Bibi-Sitter, who paints himself as the only leader who can take a hard and unconditional line on Iran, ISIS, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority?
Well, this is Israel we’re dealing with, so the mood of the electorate changes with the clock.
Only weeks ago, it looked like “Anyone but Bibi.” But, as I write, the latest Jerusalem Post survey showed Likud would win four more seats than the Zionist Union.
The poll also showed that, for the first time since Netanyahu called the election on December 2, the proportion of respondents saying they want him to remain prime minister was slightly higher than those saying they want him replaced.
The Likud gains appeared to come at the expense of Naftali Bennett’s Bait Yehudi (Jewish Home), which opposes concessions to the Palestinians.
Along with Yair Lapid’s secular Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, Bait Yehudi formed a coalition with Likud to form the government after the 2013 elections. The two parties were the driving force behind legislation to compel haredi Jews to serve in the military.
It’s interesting that the babysitter ad spares Bennett.
In a recent tweet, Netanyahu implied that only a strong Likud could prevent “the Left” from being asked to form a government.
But Netanyahu knows he would need Bennett as a coalition partner – Livni calls them “Bibi-Bennett” – so perhaps he can’t afford to mock him outright.
Or perhaps even the Bibi-Sitter needs a backup for those busy nights.