Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up his campaign in Arab communities in the final weeks of the campaign, with statistics revealing a wide gap in spending on Arabic-language ads between Likud and Arab parties.
According to statistics released by Channel 12 on Tuesday, between July 17 and October 14, Likud spent NIS 47,500 ($13,500) on Arabic-language Facebook ads, compared to NIS 24,100 ($6,900) spent by the Ra’am party of Mansour Abbas, and only 3,460 NIS. by the Hadash-Ta’al faction of Ayman Odeh.
Likud, Israel’s largest party, has far more funds than smaller Arab parties.
Advertisements published by Likud focus on two strategic pillars. The first is the premise that the current crop of Arab party lawmakers in the Knesset are corrupt and self-serving, and the second promises the restoration of law and order in Arab Israeli society, a burning issue like the death toll due to crimes committed with firearms continues to increase year after year.
According to a Channel 12 report, anonymous right-wing groups have also embarked on a publicity blitz in Arab Israeli towns, posting posters highlighting the split in the former Joint List — a conglomerate that once included four Arab parties — as well as appealing to the self-interest of current Arab members of the Knesset.
As Netanyahu turns his attention to Arab communities — in an apparent effort to win over voters and/or reduce Arab turnout by signaling that the community has nothing to fear from him — interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid is following suit. with a visit to the northern city of Nazareth, the largest Arab city in the country, scheduled for next week.
The 2021 elections saw Netanyahu make similar overtures to Arab society, with his campaign centered on the nickname he claimed to have received from his Arab supporters, “Abu Yair”.
He sped between Arab towns, touting his government’s coronavirus vaccination campaign and a plan to tackle crime in Arab communities, and heralded what he called the opportunity for a “new era.” for Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.
The effort paid off, with support for Netanyahu’s Likud in Arab communities four, five and even eight times higher than in the March 2020 elections. But it amounted to very little in actual numbers, a result of both low Arab public turnout and the fact that support for Likud, even multiplied, remains limited in these communities.
On election day in 2015, Netanyahu notoriously warned that Arabs were “running out in droves” into voting booths. He later apologized for the inflammatory complaint after accusations of racism and incitement.
Turnout across the entire Arab community was historically low in 2021 – just 44.6%. According to a poll released last month by the Kan public broadcaster, that figure is expected to drop further on Nov. 1.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.