Netanyahu’s main rivals hire Obama’s strategist for upcoming elections

Report says Joel Benenson will consult for Blue and White party, is set to visit Israel next month

US political strategist Joel Benenson in 2013. (Screenshot: YouTube)
US political strategist Joel Benenson in 2013. (Screenshot: YouTube)

The main party challenging Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming September elections has reportedly hired US political consultant and pollster Joel Benenson, who was the chief strategist for Barack Obama’s successful campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Blue and White, a headed by former IDF chief Benny Gantz, won 35 seats in April’s Knesset vote — on par with Netanyahu’s Likud — but failed to garner enough support to unseat the popular right-wing leader.

Some pundits said the centrist party had a lacking, inconsistent campaign that was no match for Likud’s, and that since the election it has also been anemic, failing to act as a fierce opposition to Netanyahu.

The New York-based Benenson, who is Jewish, is the CEO of Benenson Strategy Group and has been a strategist for many US senators, governors and mayors — mainly Democrats. He also advises business companies, and has recently been hired by Facebook.

While he achieved successes as the strategist for former US president Obama, his most recent effort as chief strategist for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections ended in failure.

Blue and White party leaders, from left to right: Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi. Tel Aviv, March 18, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Now he will enter the Israeli political arena and will likely come to the country next month, the Maariv daily said Tuesday in reporting the appointment. He has not yet visited Blue and White’s offices, the report said.

The party has hired a second American strategist who will focus on digital content, the report said, without naming him.

Blue and White’s chief strategist, however, will continue to be Israel Bachar, who is trusted by the party’s leadership.

The party appeared to confirm the report in a statement to Maariv, downplaying it as “not dramatic” and adding that hiring American consultants “is done mainly to make use of their immense knowledge on analysis of polls and field results.

“The Israeli voter has different characteristics to the American voter, and in the end the real work will have to be done here, in the field.”

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