THE LABOR PARTY'S LEGACY OF FAILURE.
In 1990 Labor Party campaign managers faced a quandary. In the two
previous elections of 1984 and 1988, their election campaign had failed
to induce the electorate. The Labor party was resolved not to repeat its
failure in the Elections of 1992.
In the 1988 election campaign, Likud television propaganda successfully
attributed economic failure to labor Party policy by successfully
attaching symbols of negative connotation and a stigma of being the
establishment with "Mara'ach", "Histadrut", and "Socialism". Through
Likud propaganda The Labor party had itself become a symbol of
corruption and a divided leadership.
In 1990, having left the National Unity Government, Labor had failed to
engender a credible alternative to the Likud and were forced into
opposition. Consequently the Labor leadership entered a period of self
reflection. Their self appraisal commenced with a postmortem of their
1984 and the 1988 television campaign.
As a result of the failure of the 1988 Labor campaign, party managers
resolved to institute an alternative strategy. Prior to the 1992
election Labor Party leadership had sought to print 50,000 copies of the
party platform. The demand was refused by their own party campaign
managers, who saw such a program as a return to the mistaken 'rationale
model' of 1988 and potential oil for the Likud propaganda machine.
Labor was not to repeat its mistake of revealing all its policy before
In 1990 the image of the Labor Party was at its lowest. Two years later
the Labor Party rejected the `rationale model' conceived in the 1988
election campaign and embraced a new strategy. Many in the Labor Party
realized that the Party itself would have to transform fundamentally in
order to eliminate the negative imagery in which it had been encompassed
by Likud television propaganda.
TOWARDS A NEW PROPAGANDA IMAGE OF THE LABOR PARTY.
A membership drive was perceived as the first stage in the
revitalization of the Labor Party and the means to escape from the
stigma of corruption and secrecy that the Likud propaganda had
successfully attributed to it.
The problem confronting Labor Party propagandist was how to allure new
members to join an unpopular party.
"After three months of deliberation we realized that a party manifesto
is totally irrelevant when you come to a party membership drive. We
were able to trace a large number of what can be called 'party
disappointees', Labor supporters at heart, who want to see a Labor party
come to power .... but many no longer voted for Labor because of the
personal infighting etc. These people do not need to be convinced to
join the party ,they need an incentive." (1)
Primary elections were considered an incentive that Labor Party
propagandists could present to potential new members to join the Labor
Party. They provided an opportunity to participate in the Party and the
election of its leader.
The membership drive enlarged affiliation by 148,000 between January
and July 1991. 62% were new members, 38% were between the ages of 18 -
35, 51% were women, 10% were Israeli Arabs (of which 30% were Israeli
If the primaries afforded a symbol for those yearning for a different
Labor Party, the Party Convention of November 1991 added to the
impression of a new openness of the Party. In January 1992, 120,000
people participated in the primaries. (3)
LABOR PARTY PROPAGANDA STRATEGY IN THE 1992 ELECTION CAMPAIGN:
To win an overall majority in the General Election, Labor strategists
sought to directly gain 4-5 mandates from the Likud directly.
Disenchanted Likud voters thus provided a central target for Labor
propaganda. This section of disillusioned Likud supporters comprised of
three to three and a half mandates from the poorer middle classes and
one and a half to two mandates in the upper middle classes. (4)
The strategy of the 1992 Labor television propaganda was primarily
devised to attract the patronage of this group.
"The Lower middle class...of the electorate are emotional. In order to
get them to vote for you, symbols are very important ... with rationale
we do not have a chance. With hasbara you can not win elections, you
need emotions, you need propaganda. After 1988 we had learnt our
It is this same sector of the population that Likud was to regain the
support of in the 1996 election campaign. During its 1992 television
campaign; a new stratagem manifested. The Labor Party television
broadcasts functioned on two levels. Firstly, the symbol of Yitzhak
Rabin as leader, warrior and the only person who could bring about
change was created. Secondly, Labor Party television commercials
upbraided the Likud by presenting the government as a symbol of;
degeneracy, corruption and disunity. "Disconnected from the people" was
to become a central symbol of the 1992 campaign. Whilst the positive
personification of symbolism denoted a metamorphosis in the campaign
strategy, much of the negative imagery of the Likud provided a
continuity in stratagem from 1988 to
THE PERSONIFICATION OF SYMBOLISM.
The slogan "Israel is waiting for Rabin" and the personification of
Labor's campaign was essentially aimed at the lower middle class Likud
vote. Labor Party propagandists felt that this group needed to be
provided with a strong symbol of leadership, a symbol that Shamir failed
to fulfill. In the 1992 Labor Party campaign, symbolism itself became
The question of the perceived viability of the candidacy of the leader
played a decisive role in the 1992 election campaign of both parties and
had a significant bearing on the election results.(6) The
personification of symbolism in the 1992 Labor Party television campaign
aspired to enable disappointed Likud members to vote "Rabin" without the
ignominy of voting " Labor."
Rabin's message of security and a change in national priorities in
favor of economic development was clear.
"Which type of country and what type of policy will there be? Not of
the extreme right and not of the extreme left. We will lead
negotiations from a vantage point of military strength. So we will
attain peace. We will have negotiation with the Palestinians in the
We will give them autonomy so that they will live within their own
area. We do not want Gaza, not in Bat Yam, not in Rechovot, not in Tel
Aviv. Military strength in the place of policy will not solve the
We will change the order of priorities. We will look out first of all
for the person, the Israeli individual, for his life, his worldly gains,
education of his children. The priority will be the renewed building of
his place of work. It can be another way, it can be better, we will do
it if you give me the strength to decide."(7)
Rabin's position was reinforced by the personality of Shamir. Likud, in
1992, refrained from presenting Shamir frequently in their television
campaign and reminded the electorate of the Begin legacy; preferring to
use an archive film of Begin attacking Labor rather than use what was
considered an ineffectual leadership performance. Labor strategist often
asserted that Rabin was Begin's successor.(8) The appearance of other,
competing, Likud members in the place of Shamir, reinforced the symbol
of a divided Likud party under a weak leadership that had been created
by the 1992 Labor party television campaign.
Labor campaigners were aided in their personification of symbolism by
the coinciding of the 25th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem
with the campaign. Rabin symbolized heroism, a military leader and
liberator of Jerusalem. Ironically, this same issue was to be used
against Shimon Peres in the 1996 campaign, and provided the central
platform for a campaign to return the Likud to power for years later.
Indeed, the jingle of "Israel is waiting for Rabin" was itself taken
from a populist tune of 1967. The song alluded to Nasser's previous
defeats at the hands of the Israeli army; in 1948 as an Egyptian officer
and in 1956 as commander of those same armed forces. The song correctly
insinuated that in 1967 the same fate would again befall Nasser at
Rabin's hands. The emphasis of Rabin's role in the conquering of the
territories was intended to assuage the apprehension of the disappointed
Likud voter, into supporting Labor.
Labor television commercials of 1992 omitted Elazer in the image of
Dayan and Rabin entering the Old City in 1967. Elazar was aligned to
the left and implicated in the failure of the defense establishment by
the Agonot Commission.
Elements of the 1992 television campaign reflected the nostalgic
yearning for a time of more clearly delineated moral division.
Commercials presents the unambiguous symbolism of 1967 conflict of
'good' (Rabin) combating 'evil' (Nasser) in contrast to the more
contemporary and problematic moral dilemma of Israeli and Palestinian
relations which existed within the context of the Intifada.
RABIN'S SPEECHES STRENGTHENED THE VISUAL IMAGE:
"My perspective upon my approach to the Kotel was perhaps the most
emotionally significant moment in my life and the most moving moment in
my life. I was born in Jerusalem, I fought in the two wars that
determined the destiny of Jerusalem in modern times.
I though consequently, why did we enter into the War of Independence so
unready, so unprepared ... I decided to ensure that the Army would never
be as unprepared as it was in 1948."(9)
Likud sought to weaken the symbol of Rabin as a strong leader of
propriety, who had fought throughout Israel's history for its security.
Likud television commercials often intimated that Rabin was an alcoholic
and recalled his nervous breakdown during the Six Day War. The Likud
strategy proved ineffectual.(10)
In the 1988 television campaign, Likud had successfully depicted the
propaganda image of controlling the street. In 1992 Labor was resolved
to transpose this symbolic attribute of its adversary.
"It was important to show potential Likud voters that we controlled the
street .. this control was a key issue which had to be won, and was lost
in all previous elections."(11)
Consequently Labor activists were sent to transform the reality on the
street; Likud activities were interrupted, demonstrators with placards
displaying pictures of Rabin stood, in the last weeks of the election,
at major road intersections. Political rallies were organized to
reinforce the image of Rabin as the leader of the street and were in
turn incorporated within Labor Party television commercials and
increased with the progression of the campaign.
By 1992 both the traditional red flag, and the color red had been erased
from Labor Party propaganda and television commercials, even the Party
logo had been modified, as had been its name. The old negative symbol
of "The Ma'arach" was supplanted by "Ha'avoda", the description of
"party" was removed and transposed by "`ha'avoda-headed by Rabin". The
change of name was not inadvertent, it provided an integral element of a
new image of a revitalized and democratic party.
In contrast to Likud, Labor Party propaganda in 1992 was primarily
positive, enhancing the personification of the symbol of Rabin, rather
than assailing Shamir.
"We wanted to work on the concept of talking about your leader and
avoiding your opponent ... why should we make an issue of him? The
frustration from him already exists within the minds of the people
anyway. Why put him on the same level as our leader?"(12)
Labor sought to reverse its image as a predominantly Ashkenazi party.
Sephardi Israelis were continuously depicted supporting the party.
Prominently Sephardic populated towns were also used.
THE NEGATIVE SYMBOL OF THE LIKUD IN THE 1992 LABOR PARTY COMMERCIALS.
In 1992 Labor propagandist were fearful that, at the last instant, Likud
members would feel contrite and return 'home,' voting Likud rather than
Labor. Consequently Labor television advertisements seldomly denigrated
Shamir directly, in order not to alienate the disconcerted Likud voter.
Furthermore, the word "Likud" itself was seldom used: rather "Likud
ministers" or `mercaz hlikud' were alluded to.
In 1992 Labor Party television propaganda was not only successful in the
personification of the symbolism of "strength", "propriety" and
"heroism", it successfully ascribed the negative symbolism of
"corruption," "disunity" and "ineptitude" to the Likud, The new
strategy utilized by Labor, it may be argued, beguiled 90,000 Likud
supporters to vote for `Rabin.'(13)
Two years later, when three bullets of an assassin were to kill Yitzhak
Rabin, many of the images created in the 1992 campaign were to become
eulogies, permanently engraved in Israeli society.
1 Weber, Ron: Director of Information of the Labor Party - Interview
2 Figures provided by Weber, Ron: Ibid
3 Weber Ron Ibid
4 Weber, Ron: Ibid
5 Weber, Ron: Opp Cit
6 For example; see Tal Abraham "The message of those who returned to
Labor" Ha'aretz July 26 1992.7 Rabin, Party Commercial
8 See Orli Azulay - Katz "Labor's Strategy" Yideot Achranot May 18
9 Rabin, Quoted from a 1992 Labor Campaign Commercials.
10 See Bina Barzel, "In War - Like War" Yideot Achranot May 8 1992 and
"Davd Levy; Likud's Line of Propagand of Attacking Rabin is a Mistake."
HaEretz June 3 1992
11 Weber, Ron: Opp Cit
12 Weber, Ron: Opp Cit
13 Weber, Ron: Opp Cit