With five days remaining until the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political adviser Arthur Finkelstein left the country Thursday, reportedly with no intention of returning before the January 22 polling day.
The American political strategist — a long-standing associate to Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman — was credited with masterminding the Likud-Beytenu alliance in October 2012. He was overseeing the election campaign of the Likud-Beytenu slate and the nature of his departure is subject to speculation.
He had predicted that the two parties, which held 42 seats in the last Knesset (the Likud had 27, and Yisrael Beytenu 15), would get more than that number of seats with their merged list. But polls suggest the pairing may win only 33-38 seats.
Sources cited by Channel 10 News attributed Finkelstein’s decision to leave the ruling party’s campaign in its final days to a case of waning influence. However, party officials rejected these claims as baseless, saying Finkelstein never stays around until election day, and that everything is “going as planned.”
According to Likud sources, Finkelstein and his partner George Birnbaum, who also left for the US, are still part of the campaign, which is being conducted according to a schedule set months ago — and that includes their departure to the United States.
New York-based, 67-year-old Jewish political consultant Finkelstein has orchestrated election campaigns for conservative candidates in a range of countries over the last few decades.