Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks at his watch before delivering a statement at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem December 19, 2018.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assembled his winning campaign team for the 2015 election, he brought together respected professionals.
There was the campaign manager and strategist Aron Shaviv, his chief of staff Shlomo Filber, spokesman Nir Hefetz, and Netanyahu’s chief of staff Ari Harow.
Shaviv advised Netanyahu from the start of the campaign to push what he called “reverse packaging.” The strategy was to persuade voters on the Right that rather than vote for other right-wing parties and get Netanyahu, they had to vote for Netanyahu and get the other parties in the coalition.
But Shaviv had to wait for the right moment to have Netanyahu drive that message home. The more Netanyahu fell in the polls, the more voters on the Right would feel compelled to vote for him.
Only after a poll found for the first time that less than half the public thought Netanyahu would form the next government did tens of thousands of Israelis change their minds and get persuaded by Netanyahu’s countless interviews that their security required them to vote Likud.
Now that Netanyahu is working on building his team for the 2019 election, he cannot go back to those who helped him last time. Filber, Hefetz and Harow have since turned state’s witness against him in his criminal cases. Shaviv, who won an international award for the Netanyahu campaign, has turned down the prime minister this time around.
The campaign’s advertising manager Rami Yehudiha will be working for Yesh Atid.
Sources close to Netanyahu said a strategist would be hired soon but could not name names. Asked if an American strategist would be hired, after John McLaughlin, George Birnbaum and the late Arthur Finkelstein worked for him in the past, a Netanyahu associate responded: “Bibi.”
When Netanyahu convened his closest advisers on Monday night and decided to run an anti-legal establishment campaign, it was interesting to hear who had the prime minister’s ear.
His political spokesman Yonatan Urich was there, as were Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and son, Yair. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and coalition chairman David Amsalem have become close political advisers, and the extent to which Netanyahu relies on Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer on issues that have nothing to do with the White House cannot be underestimated.
Yair Netanyahu has become increasingly influential on the prime minister, despite his own bad reputation after racist tweets
and a drunken tax-payer-funded visit to a striptease club
. The Jerusalem Pos
t reported exclusively when he obtained a job working for the right-wing legal organization Shurat Hadin, for whom he ran a successful social media campaign against Airbnb.
“If I had to bet on a name, I would put my money on Yair being the strategist,” a former adviser said in all seriousness.
Even if Yair’s role has been exaggerated, any prospective strategist will have to tolerate his presence when key decisions will be made. If the campaign emerges successfully, it could go a long way toward improving the image of the prime minister’s son.
But even if the campaign fails, Netanyahu can count on Yair to never testify against him.