US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief and chief of staff Ari Harow was only “marginally involved” in a campaign that was seen as aimed at unseating US president Barack Obama in the 2012 American presidential election, officials involved in the campaign told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
Ha’aretz revealed corporate documents over the weekend that proved that Harow’s company, 3H Global, consulted for iVoteIsrael. The report said that Harow was being investigated for how he sold the business when he returned to Netanyahu’s office as chief of staff after forming the company following his stint as the prime minister’s bureau chief.
Strategist Aron Shaviv, who later worked for Netanyahu in the 2015 election, initiated and ran the iVoteIsrael campaign.
He said Harow’s only role was introducing him to some donors. He stressed that Harow was far-removed from the Prime Minister’s Office at the time and certainly did not take any steps on Netanyahu’s behalf by being involved in the campaign.
“Netanyahu wasn’t involved in the campaign or even aware of it, and I don’t think he is aware of it to this day,” Shaviv said.
iVoteIsrael was launched as a bi-partisan, not-for-profit effort, aiming to maximize the number of American citizens living in Israel voting in presidential and congressional elections by absentee balloting.
Over a six-month period, iVoteIsrael fielded a grassroots effort, coupled with an online and social media campaign, that resulted in 80,000 Israelis casting absentee ballots, quadrupling the number who voted by absentee in the 2008 election.
Those 80,000 absentee ballots accounted for approximately 20% of all overseas absentee ballots cast worldwide in the race, even though Americans in Israel only account for three percent of overseas voters globally. iVoteIsrael punched above its weight in so-called swing states, such as Florida, where 7,500 ballots were cast from Israel, and Ohio with 3,500 ballots.
According to iVoteIsrael statistics, 85 percent of absentee voters in Israel cast ballots for Republican candidate Mitt Romney and 14% for Obama.
In Congressional races, 62% voted for Republican and 28% for Democrats.
Shaviv’s company later withstood an audit by the American Internal Revenue Service, which found that iVoteIsrael did meet the non-partisan standards of a 501c4 organization.
But he does not hide in retrospect that unseating Obama was one of the campaign’s goals.
“We didn’t need to be partisan, because we knew based on polling, that Israelis would vote overwhelmingly for Romney,” Shaviv said. “We earnestly encouraged people to vote, and they did.”