US: Engagement with Israel is based on policies, not people

Netanyahu’s new media adviser has peddled 2020 US election falsehoods

Conservative pundit Gilad Zwick has said Biden is ‘destroying America,’ promoted conspiracies around Trump’s loss; fresh appointee says he no longer holds such views

Gilad Zwick in a Channel 14 report, January 19, 2023. (Channel 14 screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Gilad Zwick in a Channel 14 report, January 19, 2023. (Channel 14 screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recently appointed media adviser has spread 2020 US election fraud conspiracies and charged that US President Joe Biden is “destroying America,” a Hebrew media report said Sunday.

Gilad Zwick previously worked as a pundit for Channel 14 and the Israel Hayom daily — both conservative, right-wing news outlets. On his Twitter page, which boasts over 30,000 followers, he has attacked Biden and made false claims about the 2020 vote, according to a compilation by the Haaretz daily.

After his past comments gained media attention Monday, Zwick tweeted that he no longer holds those views about Biden.

Zwick’s appointment comes as ties between Israel and its closest ally, the United States, are fraught over the government’s controversial plan to shackle the judiciary and over Netanyahu’s far-right, ultranationalist coalition partners.

In a tweet posted in 2021, Zwick labeled Biden “the supreme leader, who is slowly but surely destroying America,” implicitly likening him to the leaders of North Korea and Iran.

“The media is doing everything in order to hide that Biden is unfit, but the Chinese, Russians and Iranians are not stupid and understand well that there is no one in charge in Washington,” he wrote last July, attaching a video of Biden reading out stage directions from a teleprompter.

Many Biden critics have pushed videos of the president’s gaffes as evidence of poor mental acuity.

After Biden won the 2020 US presidential election, Zwick promoted Donald Trump’s claims that the election was fraudulent, which have been debunked.

“These elections will not be decided without a fight,” he wrote, several days after the election. “I hope right-wing politicians here will learn from their American counterparts a thing or two about courage and determination.”

Zwick shared a video that supposedly showed four ballot workers in Georgia opening “suitcases with forms under the table, and beginning energetically scanning for at least two hours — of course, without any supervision.”

He claimed that the workers had counted 18,000 ballots, more than the margin by which Biden defeated Trump in the state. Trump is under investigation in Georgia for calling the state’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, and asking him to “find 11,780 votes” to give him an edge over Biden.

Zwick tweeted that “election workers” in Michigan had testified under oath about frauds occurring in the state.

He also promoted false claims that the Dominion Voting Systems machines had flipped votes to Biden.

“Another interesting development,” he wrote three weeks after the election. “Dominion representatives refused to appear before Pennsylvanian legislatures about the safety of their machines. What do they have to hide?”

File: A Dominion Voting Systems voting machine in Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Zwick quoted Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who “submitted a petition that charged that Dominion machines were vulnerable to manipulation and forgeries on a large scale, to the point of biasing the election results.”

In April, Fox News reached a $787 million settlement with the firm in a defamation lawsuit, averting a trial in a case that exposed how the top-rated network chased viewers by promoting such lies.

After Trump’s supporters violently stormed the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021, Zwick slammed social media sites for suspending accounts that promoted election fraud conspiracies.

“Now, General Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell’s Twitter accounts have also been suspended,” Zwick wrote, adding that “Silicon Valley has declared war against the right’s freedom of expression.”

Zwick tweeted Monday in English that he had been a private citizen when writing the posts about Biden.

“I don’t hold those views today and I will act in a completely professional manner in the prime minister’s office,” he said in response to reports, including in international media, about his past comments.

Asked to comment on the appointment during a Monday press briefing, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel declined to do so directly.

“Personnel decisions for the prime minister’s office are for them to undertake. What I will say though again, and you’ve heard me say this before, is that we will engage with our Israeli partners directly as it relates to the policies they pursue, not necessarily the makeup of their government and the personalities that are involved in it,” Patel said.

Biden has publicly expressed concern over the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul plan, which has sparked mass protests that continue weekly even after the plan was put on hold.

The Biden administration has also voiced unease about Netanyahu’s government, made up of ultranationalists who were once at the fringes of Israeli politics and now hold senior positions dealing with the Palestinians and other sensitive issues.

Amid the tensions, Biden has so far denied Netanyahu a customary invitation to the White House following his election win late last year.

Critics accuse Netanyahu of gradually shifting Israel from a bipartisan matter to a wedge issue in US politics. They point to his appearance of openly supporting Republican candidates as well as his 2015 speech to Congress which was seen as a slight to the Obama administration over its nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu says Israel’s bond with the US is unbreakable and downplays any rifts as disagreements between friends.

Last month, the Knesset hosted US House speaker Kevin McCarthy, who became just the second House speaker to address the Knesset, after Republican Newt Gingrich in 1998.

AP contributed to this report.

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