Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party came in a close second to the centrist Kadima Party led by Tzipi Livni in the recent Israeli elections. And while it may still be Netanyahu who will lead and form Israel’s new government, criticism of his party’s campaign tactics, and his American political consultants, has begun.

From the Jerusalem Post:

"...many party activists had complained that the party had not utilized them and that there had not been enough rallies. They also complained that the party had not put enough activists on the party payroll.

They said that instead, the money had gone toward an Internet campaign, modeled after U.S. President Barack Obama's Web site. Unlike in Obama's case, they said, Netanyahu's use of the Internet had not proven successful."

The similarities between Netanyahu’s site and Obama’s were striking, as the New York Times pointed out this past November.

Now, there is reportedly concern among Obama administration officials about a “right-wing” Israeli government that might be led by Netanyahu—the man two Obama political strategists worked to elect. Two of Netanyahu’s advisors during the campaign included Democrat Bill Knapp, of the firm Squier Knapp Dunn, and Josh Isay, the New York-based consultant who works under Knickerbocker, a division of SKD. Both men worked on the Obama campaign this past fall.

Neither Knapp nor Isay returned emails seeking comment about their work for Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has employed American consultants in the past, most notably Arthur Finkelstein—the reclusive GOP consultant who oversaw former Gov. George Pataki’s political rise in New York.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Knapp and Isay were instrumental in a Netanyahu strategy shift just after the start of the Gaza offensive…

“The Likud paid in advance for hundreds of billboards nationwide to launch a campaign Sunday attacking Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, but it decided to freeze the negative campaign when the operation in the Gaza Strip began. Instead, the space will be used for a campaign saluting the army and inhabitants of Sderot and Ashkelon, the party announced Monday.

The "rally around the flag" campaign was initiated at the advice of the Likud's American strategists, Bill Knapp and Josh Isay. The slogan on the billboards will now read ‘Strong together - The Likud with the IDF and the residents of the South.’”


Shane D'Aprile is Senior Editor at Politics magazine. sdaprile@politicsmagazine.com