Netanyahu hires Breitbart reporter Aaron Klein as new adviser

Appointment raises eyebrows, as far-right author and radio talk show host has a history of attacking Democratic US presidents and presidential hopefuls

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Aaron Klein (courtesy)
Aaron Klein (courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hired prominent right-wing journalist Aaron Klein as his new strategic and communications consultant, the Likud party announced Monday.

Klein, 41, has advised Netanyahu for several months, but in recent weeks quit his job as Israel correspondent for the far-right Breitbart website to work for Likud full-time.

Netanyahu praised Klein’s contribution from a stage in the Tel Aviv fairgrounds early on election night, March 3, after it became clear that Likud had become the Knesset’s largest faction with 36 seats.

Klein’s new appointment made waves on social media, since the adviser is considered a hardline Republican who has written books attacking Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and since the Democratic party’s latest presidential candidate, Joe Biden, leads incumbent Donald Trump in polls ahead of the November election.

A Philadelphia native who has been in living in Jerusalem for several years, Klein will not replace the prime minister’s spokesperson, Shir Cohen, and the post of spokesperson for the international media remains vacant. (The job was previously held by Evan Gary Cohen, who quit in March after only seven months.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address supporters at the Likud party campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 3, 2020 (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

“Klein left a full-time successful career as a reporter to help as Israel finds itself facing unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, amid the international debate on the issue of applying sovereignty [in the West Bank] and other pressing matters,” a Likud source told The Times of Israel on Monday.

Klein’s career as writer and radio talk show host has made some observers uneasy about him advising Netanyahu.

Jerusalem-based writer Gershom Gorenberg, a critic of the prime minister’s, pointed out that Klein had served as Jerusalem bureau chief for WND (World News Daily), which he characterized as “a far-right conspiracy-peddling site.”

Shalom Lipner, who served for 26 years in the Prime Minister’s Office and currently works as a senior fellow for Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said hiring Klein was a “short-sighted move by Netanyahu” to curry favor with Trump. That, Lipner added, was a “risky proposition to say the least.”

The prime minister should “stop antagonizing Democrats,” Lipner added, recommending Netanyahu prepare for the possibility of Biden entering the White House in January 2021.

Klein has a history of harshly attacking Democratic presidents and presidential hopefuls. He published two books denouncing Trump’s predecessor — “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists” (2010) and “Fool Me Twice: Obama’s Shocking Plans for the Next Four Years Exposed” (2012).

In 2014, he published a book entitled “The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don’t Want You to Know,” in what observers said was a bid to derail the former secretary of state’s presidential run.

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