Israel Elections: Gideon Sa'ar suspends Lincoln Project advisers

Suspension follows sexual misconduct scandal in US; rival party disappointed to see Sa'ar advisers go after he has fallen in polls.

Gideon Sa'ar (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gideon Sa'ar
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime ministerial hopeful Gideon Sa’ar will no longer work with his American advisers who are being accused of covering up a sexual harassment scandal involving Lincoln Project cofounder John Weaver and pocketing millions raised by their political action committee, a Sa’ar spokesman told The Jerusalem Post exclusively on Tuesday. 
Last month, Sa’ar hired Steve Schmidt, Stuart Stevens, Rick Wilson and Reed Galen of the Lincoln Project, which was formed in late 2019 by Republicans and former Republicans who aimed to prevent former president Donald Trump’s reelection and to defeat all pro-Trump Republicans in close races running for reelection in the Senate.
There had been speculation at the time that the Lincoln Project’s advisers would help Sa’ar defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with negative ads as they did with Trump. But the spokesman downplayed what the advisers had done for Sa’ar’s campaign.
“We have never worked with the Lincoln Project,” the spokesman said. “The party engaged four senior consultants who were connected with the project. The individual in question is not known to us, we have never had any contact with him and certainly have not worked with him. In any event, due to financial considerations, the contract with the consultants is under review, and in the coming days, we will examine the possibility of further cooperation.”
Asked why he hired the Lincoln Project at a VIP briefing to the Tel Aviv International Salon in English, Sa’ar said they had consulted for many top American politicians. He said he had not implemented Lincoln Project-style attack ads against Netanyahu.
“We didn’t make any nasty ads,” he said. “I am responsible for what I have said and done.”
Sa’ar distanced himself from the charges against Weaver.
“We didn’t work with him and don’t know him,” he said. “We are not responsible for him. Right now we’re not working with them. It is strange to transfer this to us across continents.”
Schmidt quit his role at the Lincoln Project after it was revealed that Weaver had been accused of sexual harassment by more than 20 young men. The Associated Press and other outlets reported that of some $90 million raised by the PAC, more than $50m. ended up going to firms controlled by the Lincoln Project’s founders.
A campaign official of a rival party expressed disappointment that Sa’ar would cease to receive advice from the advisers. The campaign official noted that Sa’ar has been falling in the polls consistently since he hired them.
After weeks of focusing his attacks on Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, Sa’ar shifted to Netanyahu in an Army Radio interview on Tuesday morning.
“More than 5000 victims of the coronavirus are just blah, blah, blah for him,” Sa’ar said. “The fact that children have been stuck at home is just background noise for him.”
In his interview with Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Lahav Harkov at the Tel Aviv International Salon, Sa’ar said he wants to involve Egypt and Jordan in the Palestinian issue and take steps to improve the daily lives of the Palestinians.
On the Iran deal, Sa’ar pointed out that even Netanyahu said “fix it or nix it,” so there can be dialogue with the US to reach understandings that serve Israel’s national interests,
“I will come with no negative sentiments from the past that many in the Biden administration are feeling,” he said. “I will work with both parties in the US and all segments of American society.”