A performance by popular Israeli singer Sarit Hadad at a Likud-Beytenu campaign event last week was a violation of campaign laws, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, chairman of the Central Election Committee, ruled on Friday.
Rubinstein has turned his ruling over to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, who has the authority to impose a penalty of up to six months in prison on violators. It is safe to assume, however, that if a penalty is in fact imposed on Likud-Beytenu, it will only be a fine.
"The performance by the singer, Sarit Hadad, at the launch of the Likud campaign was a violation of section 8 of the Knesset Elections Law (Propaganda Methods)," Rubinstein wrote in his ruling.
Section 8 of the Elections Law prohibits entertainment performances at election campaign events, including singing performances. The reason is that the law views entertainment as a kickback, which all the attendants at any campaign event would essentially be receiving from the party.
After the performance, rival party Yesh Atid — headed by Yair Lapid — lodged an official complaint with the Central Elections Committee and another complaint directly with the attorney-general.
A complaint requires the committee to get a response from the accused party. Likud-Beytenu responded to the complaint by saying that the event was not a part of the campaign, citing the fact that the attendants of the event were already party activists, whereas campaigning would be to try to influence people who did not already support the party. They added that Hadad's performance was not advertised on the invitations for the event, and that the sole purpose of the performance was to "bring some life and joy into an internal party event."
Various artists have performed in the past at party events. For example, in the current election campaign, singer Efrat Gosh performed at a Labor event and several artists performed at a Meretz conference.
Rubinstein, however, was not swayed by Likud-Beytenu's response, arguing that events whose main effect is to influence voters do constitute campaigning and therefore artists are not allowed to perform at them. He explained that the Likud-Beytenu event gained wide media coverage and was broadcast during the prime time news slot at 8 p.m., indicating that it was designed to appeal to a wide audience and not just the party activists in attendance.
Rubinstein added that this being a common practice among political parties was not a valid argument for violating the law.