Tamar Zandberg after being elected leader of Meretz.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
New Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg started off on the wrong foot over the weekend, when she admitted that she had not told the truth when she denied ties with controversial right-wing political consultant Moshe Klughaft.
Klughaft has been the strategist for Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett and has led right-wing campaigns attacking the New Israel Fund, the flagship umbrella organization of left-wing organizations. He also advised former MK Erel Margalit to run a foul-mouthed campaign in his unsuccessful bid last year for head of the Labor Party.
Zandberg, who was elected by a landslide on Thursday, said she “does not lie to anyone” when she repeatedly told reporters she did not work with Klughaft. She admitted that it “may have been a mistake” to consult with Klughaft but said he did not manage the campaign or set its tone.
After facing hours of criticism, Zandberg posted a lengthy apology on her Facebook page in which she expressed regret for disappointing so many of her constituents so soon, but decried what she called “an unprecedented attack on Meretz and on the Left.” She said her consultation with Klughaft was blown completely out of proportion.
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“The hypocritical and opportunistic attack crossed all lines,” she said, singling out Labor leader Avi Gabbay, who she said has never supported left-wing non-governmental organizations.
Gabbay initially welcomed Zandberg’s victory, blaming Klughaft for her attacks on Labor during the campaign. He said that if she continued that strategy, Meretz would not deserve to cross the electoral threshold.
But Channel 2 reported that Labor officials had been trying to arrange a meeting for Gabbay with Klughaft in an effort to help Labor, which has been floundering in the polls.
Klughaft himself revealed in a Channel 2 interview that he worked with Zandberg, saying that it was important to him that Israel will have a strong Right and Left.
Zandberg’s campaign manager Nissim Dwek accused Klughaft of trying to steal credit for his successful campaign.
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said he would check whether the free consultations with Klughaft constituted an illegal campaign contribution.
Meretz officials said privately they were outraged by Zandberg’s deception and by her consulting with a man who had harmed the New Israel Fund (NIF) and the Left.
“It’s an uncomfortable situation, because on the one hand, there are Klughaft’s dirty attacks on NIF in the past, and on the other hand, there is the strong support Zandberg has given NIF and the organizations it supports throughout her political career,” a leading figure on the Left said.