JERUSALEM — Israeli political ads make even their cheekiest American counterparts look staid by comparison: In the three-week sprint to Election Day, voters’ social media feeds have been buffeted by ads showing an actual targeted killing and a less authentic flatulent hippo.
Perhaps, then, it was only a matter of time before someone here turned “fascism” into the name of a perfume — spritzed on by Ayelet Shaked, the right-wing justice minister, whose combination of youthful attractiveness and zeal to curb the power of the liberal-leaning judiciary have made her the lawmaker the Israeli left most loves to hate.
Indeed, such an ad would have made sense coming from the left, or from a satirical television show, much as “Saturday Night Live” once spoofed Ivanka Trump with a faux ad for a scent called “Complicit.”
What was unexpected was that Ms. Shaked herself, and her New Right party, would be responsible for the mockery.
In a provocative ad released late Tuesday night, a camera lingers on Ms. Shaked, 42, in black and white, and she acts the part of a luxury-brand model — brushing her hair, walking in slow motion — as a narrator rattles off the many fronts in her long-running siege on the judiciary system.
“Judiciary revolution,” the narrator announces in Hebrew. “Reducing activism. Appointment of judges. Governance. Separation of authorities. Restraining of the Supreme Court.”
“Fascism,” the ad proclaims in English, showing a perfume bottle with that as its label.
Finally, Ms. Shaked breaks the fourth wall. “Smells like democracy to me,” she says, a rebuttal to her critics that gives away the gag.
Israeli commentators were taken aback by the ad, some finding the joke too on-the-nose or the subject too serious to make light of. Others observed that to a non-Hebrew-speaking international audience, the ad’s humor was utterly imperceptible, so that it seemed as though Ms. Shaked were indeed happy to bathe herself in eau d’autocrat.
With time running out before the elections set for April 9, however, some analysts saw another motive behind the ad. Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for the newspaper Haaretz, suggested on Twitter that Ms. Shaked had deliberately sought to generate attention for her New Right party at a time when it was “plummeting in the polls,” by using “gaslighting humor to troll the leftists and try and re-establish some street cred.”
“By the reactions,” he added, “it’s working.”