- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2008

TEL AVIV | Trying to replicate the popularity of the “Obama girl” video that played on YouTube during the recent U.S. presidential campaign, a backer of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has produced a knockoff that injects sexual innuendo into her bid to become Israel’s second female prime minister.

The “Livni boy” clip features a lanky would-be suitor who showers next to a Livni poster and raps his way through Tel Aviv in praise of the leader of the centrist Kadima party — the most senior female politician here since Prime Minister Golda Meir left office 34 years ago.

“No Golda, No Condoleezza,” he sings. “No Palin, No Michelle Obama. Because no one can outdo you, mama. Oh, Tzipi, you’re the one I want. Because you’re everything I expect from a political leader.”

Dvir Bar, a 30-year-old TV producer, said he and a musician friend co-produced the Internet video in an effort to reach younger voters and to put more zip in Mrs. Livni’s buttoned-up image.

“She’s a woman who looks a lot better in person. TV doesn’t flatter her. She’s cool,” said Mr. Bar, adding that he had no formal connection to the Kadima party. “We are turning her into someone who is our own, and someone who is sexy.”

Lacking the beauty-queen visage of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin or the feminist constituency of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ms. Livni has nonetheless enhanced her credentials as someone who represents a switch from politics as usual. A string of corruption scandals involving the country’s top leaders has alienated the public from politicians across the political spectrum.

Despite Mrs. Livni’s image as an honest politician, her party trails that of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu by a nine-seat margin, according to a recent poll for the Ha’aretz newspaper.

The race has pitted her against two former prime ministers — in addition to Mr. Netanyahu, the Labor Party’s Ehud Barak. Both have dismissed Mrs. Livni as not experienced enough to become prime minister.

As the race heats up before the Feb. 10 vote, one feminist advocate said Mrs. Livni’s sex so far has been a minor part of the campaign, but she expects that to change.

“Both men will do a great deal to demean her, and they will use all techniques possible,” said Rina Bar Tal, chairwoman of the Israel Women’s Network and a former politician. “The more they will use those techniques, the more they will go down.”

The women’s rights advocate said that a remark in which Mr. Barak, the current defense minister, appeared to patronize Ms. Livni by referring to her by her full name, Tzipora, largely backfired.

A YouTube video from a fawning supporter probably won’t hurt Ms. Livni and could help, she added.

“This campaign is caught in between generations, and in between old fashion and new fashion,” Ms. Bar Tal said. “I don’t think these videos are necessarily wrong as long as they stay within boundaries.”

Other women’s groups have expressed disappointment with comments by Mrs. Livni playing down the importance of her sex.

“You can keep repeating until tomorrow that the fact you’re a woman doesn’t interest us, but it interests others,” wrote Anat Saragousti, a filmmaker and TV reporter.

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