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Likud hires top Republican strategist ahead of elections

Amid furor over V15’s ties to Obama campaigner, Likud to be advised by Vincent Harris, who worked with senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Vincent Harris, CEO of Austin-based firm Harris Media (photo credit: YouTube screen cap)
Vincent Harris, CEO of Austin-based firm Harris Media (photo credit: YouTube screen cap)

A leading American political strategist with deep ties to the Republican party was hired by the ruling Likud party and will serve as its media consultant ahead of the upcoming March 17 elections, Army Radio reported.

Vincent Harris, the CEO of the Austin-based firm Harris Media, currently serves as Chief Digital Strategist to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and was highly active in the 2012 US presidential elections, where he handled online campaigning for candidates Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

Harris also worked in digital campaigning alongside Senator Ted Cruz in 2012 and Senator Mitch McConnell in 2014, significantly advancing social media presence and following for both US representatives.

The news of Harris’s joining with Likud comes amid a furor over a link between the V15 movement, a nonprofit Israeli group working to oust Netanyahu, and a former Democratic campaigner.

On Sunday, Likud accused the rival Zionist Camp of working with the V15 movement, which is funded by international donors, thereby engaging in illegal campaign financing.

Last week, Cruz issued a inquiry letter to the White House after Haaretz reported Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, was leading V15’s get-out-the-vote effort.

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington, Friday, September 26, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington, Friday, September 26, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“There appears to be a danger that US taxpayer funds are being used to directly shape the outcome of the upcoming Israeli election – and specifically to campaign against Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu – something all would agree would be highly inappropriate,” said the letter, which was co-authored by Representative Lee Zeldin (D-NY) and sent on January 29 to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

V15, short for “Victory 2015,” describes itself on its website as “a supra-party movement established by a group of young Israelis along with the announcement of elections” in December of last year. Its aim is to “change the dispiriting reality” in Israel and “take Israel to a new path.”

“We don’t belong to and don’t work for the advancement of a particular party,” V15 says on its website. “Our aim is larger than the personal preference of each of us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 1, 2015. (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 1, 2015. (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

The Likud charged that the V15 group “operates with aid from radical leftist groups such as OneVoice and Molad, which are supported by millions of dollars flowing in from Europe, the United States and the New Israel Fund,” and of “intervention by international actors who are interested in deposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

OneVoice was founded in 2002, during the Second Intifada, to promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and the two-state solution.

The Likud party appealed to the Central Elections Committee on Friday to halt V15’s activities, claiming it violated a campaign advertising law and campaign funding law.

V15 denied the charges, and the Zionist Camp, in a separate reaction, pointed a series of alleged past scandals involving Netanyahu.

Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog on Sunday evening responded to the accusations as well, calling them “lies” from a panicking Likud faction.

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog speaks at the Labor Party conference in Tel Aviv, December 14, 2014. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog speaks at the Labor Party conference in Tel Aviv, December 14, 2014. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

“A show of people under whose feet the ground is burning. I understand them: After six very hard years it is hard to love being in government and step down, but this is exactly what’s happening. We have no connection to any organization or any outside campaign coming to replace Netanyahu. This is a total lie.”

The Zionist Camp, a joint Knesset list from the Labor and Hatnua parties, is considered to have the best chance of unseating Likud in the March 17 elections. Polls show the two parties running near neck and neck with about 22 to 24 seats each.

Lazar Berman and Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

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