This is election material from the 1996 Israeli elections. These elections were the first to feature direct elections for prime minister, with votes for both a political party and a prime minister (this system has since been cancelled). The election pitted Benyamin Netanyahu of the Likud against Shimon Peres of Labour. The slogan on the poster, “Netanyahu. It’s good for the Jews.” was used by Chabad in their advertisements promoting Netanyahu’s campaign. The name “Netanyahu” is written in blue and underlined in red. The phrase “It’s good for the Jews” is written in white letters on a blue background.
This slogan was very controversial. Many viewed it as racist and offensive to the non-Jewish sectors of Israeli society. However, Chabad used it to recruit supporters for Netanyahu from among their followers and other Orthodox and traditional Jews. This was especially important at the time, since the morale in the Likud was very low and many thought that were going to lose the elections that closely followed the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Ultimately, Netanyahu was voted prime minister, bolstered by large support from the ultra-Orthodox community.
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Binyamin Netanyahu – Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949. He lived in Jerusalem and moved as a teenager to the United States, where his father was teaching at an American university. Netanyahu served in an elite commando unit of the IDF and participated in the operation to free hostages from the Sabena hijacked plane in 1972. His older brother Yoni would later be killed in Entebbe in 1976, as he too was attempting to free hostages from a hijacking. Netanyahu studied in America at MIT and Harvard and worked for an American consulting group. In 1982, Netanyahu worked in the Israeli diplomatic mission in New York and later became Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. He entered Israeli politics in 1988 as a member of Knesset for the Likud party, and in 1993 he was elected chair of the party. Netanyahu ran as Likud’s candidate in the first direct elections for prime minister in 1996 and served as prime minister from 1996–1999. He was subsequently re-elected in the general elections of 2009, 2013, and 2015, serving as prime minister since 2009.
Likud – The Likud is a secular, centre-right political party in Israel. Based historically on revisionist ideology, the Likud party was formed in 1973 by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon as a merger between several right-wing parties: Gachal (itself a merger of Herut and the Liberal party), the Free Centre National List, and the Movement of Greater Israel. After many years in opposition, the Likud won the elections in 1977, the first time that a right-wing party won a majority of the votes. Since then, Likud has formed most of Israel’s governments under Menachem Begin, Itzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon. Likud’s ideology is based on the belief that Israel has to maintain a strong military force against its neighbours. Despite its reluctance to negotiate with Arab neighbours that threat Israel’s existence the Likud was in fact the first party to sign a peace treaty with an Arab country: the Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty in 1979. Likewise, Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech in 2009, known as the Bar-Ilan Speech, which endorsed the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel. The Likud party emphasises the Jewish right to settle in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and, formerly, in the Gaza Strip and sees the Jordan River as Israel’s permanent eastern border. With regards to the economy, the Likud supports a free-market capitalist and liberal agenda. The Likud supports preservation of the status quo on issues of religion and state but is associated with a more traditional and nationalist approach to religion and culture in Israel.
The 1996 Elections – The 1996 elections were the first elections with two separate ballot boxes: one for prime minister and one for the political party. Shimon Peres from the Labour party and Binyamin Netanyahu from the Likud party were both running for prime minister. The atmosphere in Israel at the time was very heavy. Rabin had been assassinated six months earlier – the tragic culmination of a large rift in Israeli society following the peace process. The security situation was also difficult, with terror attacks and conflict in northern Lebanon, leading the IDF to attack Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath in an attempt to bring an end to the Hizbollah rocket attacks. The election results were surprising, with a marginal victory for Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Due to the new double vote system, the larger parties – Likud and Labour – lost many seats and smaller parties, such as the religious parties Shas and the NRP, were strengthened. Two new parties also gained many seats: Yisrael Be’Aliya headed by Natan Sharansky and the centralist party The Third Way. Despite the fact that Labour actually received two seats more that Likud, due to the new system of a direct vote for prime minister, Netanyahu was able to form a new Likud government.
Elections in Israel – Israel is a democratic country, and general elections for the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, take place, according to the law, once every four years. The nationwide elections are based on a multi-party, proportional representation system. The legal voting age in Israel is 18, and all Israeli citizens from sectors may vote and be elected. Using voting slips with the initials of the parties, citizens vote for their preferred party and not for individual candidates. The 120 seats in the Knesset are then assigned proportionally to the parties according to the number of votes received. After the elections, the president of Israel chooses the leader of the largest party or of the party that is most likely to form a viable coalition government. This leader then forms a government, the Knesset gives it a vote of confidence, and the leader then becomes prime minister.