Bibi's US adviser says he'll work well with Obama

Bill Knapp says "smart and policy-oriented" leaders both want security, peace.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
February 17, 2009 01:04
2 minute read.
Bibi's US adviser says he'll work well with Obama

obama us army pentagon 248 ap. (photo credit: )

 
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Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama would enjoy a good working relationship if Netanyahu became prime minister, according to Bill Knapp, Netanyahu's American adviser who served as a strategist in Obama's election campaign before he did the same for Netanyahu in last week's race. Netanyahu, who in the past hired American Republican strategists to help his campaigns, crossed the line when he hired Knapp, who was in charge of strategy for several states in Obama's campaign and also worked for the Democratic candidate in the previous three presidential races. He is currently working on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's reelection campaign. "I think Netanyahu and Obama will work together well," Knapp said. "They are both exceptionally smart and policy-oriented and in the end of the day, they both want to achieve the same things: Security for Israel, peace in the region and an end to this intractable conflict." Addressing concerns that the president could reject Netanyahu's approach to peacemaking, Knapp said that "Obama doesn't approach policy problems by looking at what has been done and automatically doing the same thing." Knapp came to Israel several times during the campaign and worked closely with Netanyahu and two of his closest advisers, Yisrael Bahar and Ron Dermer. While he had never worked on an Israeli campaign before, Knapp said he had followed Israeli politics for a long time and that there were many similarities to races in America. "What was similar was having to find the sweet spot, a winning definition of what the voters wanted and what your candidate has to offer," Knapp said. "With Obama, the voters wanted change and that's what he was ready to provide. Bibi offers convictions on security and the economic situation that was what the people wanted." Knapp said the campaign decided early on to focus on Netanyahu's strengths on the security and economy issues, while defining Kadima leader Tzipi Livni as someone who had implemented and still supported policies that the public had overwhelmingly rejected. "We had to raise the stakes of the race," Knapp said. "She wanted a campaign based on personality, but we wanted to keep it based on the issues. They ran a good campaign, but it was doomed from the beginning because they couldn't reposition her for a public that had left her behind. At the end of the day, there was a robust debate and people got to see the differences on the issues." Knapp said he did not regret Netanyahu's decision to reject invitations to debate his opponents in the race. He said that a debate would have promoted theatrics and more character assassinations against Netanyahu at the expense of focusing on key issues. While Knapp acknowledged that Kadima did end up winning one seat more than Likud, he said he considered the race victorious, because the Right bloc's 65 to 55 defeat of the Left bloc proved that a majority of the public preferred Netanyahu. "I do think that in the end, the campaign was centered on issues," Knapp said. "If there was a popular vote, we would have won easily. She just got more votes because she drained votes from the Left. She pursued a personality-based, flawed strategy built on the quicksand of flawed policy."

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