MK Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit will focus its election campaign on broadening the party’s voter base by reaching out to new population groups, including haredi (ultra-Orthodox), traditional and secular voters, according to his new campaign manager, Nevo Cohen.
“What we are seeing according to all the indications – in research, surveys, social networks, in the field, in the media and at conferences – is that the people of Israel across the board are yearning for this [election] run by Itamar Ben-Gvir,” he said.
A new poll on Thursday by Menachem Lazar, head of Panel Politics, showed Otzma Yehudit getting seven seats against five for MK Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism Party. That’s twice as much as in the last election, when the two factions ran together and received only six seats.
“I think that first of all, it is the public’s longing for real change, and to be able to vote fully for the Right, not partially,” Cohen said. “This is backed up by actions and statements… that Itamar did and said, and [is also a vote] against exactly the same forces that promised a better situation. We saw what parties that for over a decade disguised themselves as right-wing did in the last year.”
Ben-Gvir is the “Archimedean point of the present election,” he posited. (According to Oxford reference, this is a point “outside” from which a different, perhaps objective or ‘true’ picture of something is obtainable.)
"The moment girls in Beersheba are being attacked, the moment soldiers are afraid to visit Jaffa in their uniforms, the moment that people hide their Star of David necklaces in Acre – this is what the election is all about."Nevo Cohen
"You see for yourself, all the [political] players pay attention to him, for better or for worse. They understand his ability to bring in new electoral groups," he said.
"The actor who can change the [political] picture is Itamar Ben Gvir."
The far-right party leader said as much in his campaign launch on Monday, when he announced that he had decided to run independently from Smotrich and the Religious Zionism Party.
The deadline for submitting final party lists is on September 15, so it is unclear if this is Ben-Gvir’s final decision or a ploy to get better positioning within the RZP list.
Ben-Gvir accused Smotrich of trying to appeal only to “classic” religious Zionists who otherwise would vote for Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and not to a broader base of “religious Zionists of all shapes and sizes” along with “residents of the periphery, the North, the South, traditional Jews, secular Jews, haredim, women, soldiers and young people.”
According to Cohen, in young people “whose opinion is flexible… we see a very positive response to our messages – and not without reason, since as people get older, their opinions are shaped by ‘mind designers’ and different kinds of media tools. When you are younger, you are much more open to hearing opinions and positions that differ from those of your parents.”
Cohen should know about "mind designing", as his firm is an expert at it.
Cohen is a founding party in a political campaigning agency called "C.I.Y Global", alongside former Mossad chief Danny Yatom.
According to its website, the company offers to “map all political forces and position you in the best spot,” to “create your new voice, loud, viral and fresh” and to set its clients up to win by a “customized strategy plan using dynamic and responsive checkpoints that take advantage of our deep voter data analysis.”
Cohen in the past worked mainly abroad, including running the recent presidential campaign of former President of Costa Rica José Figueres Ferrer and of former Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov, according to a statement put out on Wednesday by Otzma Yehudit. The party described him as a "strategic advisor who worked in Israel deep under the radar in advising political and business executives".
The digital services offered on his company’s website include “nano targeting” and using “special social circles techniques” in order to create viral digital content. The company also employs a behavioral scientist who specializes in “behavioral economics, mind design, consumer behavior, customer experience and neuromarketing.”
The company calls its technological tools “ammunition,” and its services include chat bots, troll armies, a GIF Factory and deep data mining. It also runs a “war room” that includes “reconnaissance ops – learning all there is to know about your opponents” and “black ops,” which the website says are “to be discussed…”
Ben Gvir's campaign initiatives
soldiers who are afraid to wear uniforms in haredi neighborhoods also constitutes a violation of national pride, Cohen said, “These are isolated incidents, which of course are problematic in and of themselves, but the phenomenon is the opposite – we are seeing – I don’t want to say broad, but an acceptance [of soldiers] in haredi communities.
“The extent of damage to our national pride is problematic and endangers our very existence here, and we all know where from,” Cohen said.
This is why Israeli soldiers and police officers should be given full immunity so that they do not have to “hesitate” before acting, he explained.
“We all see what happens when the hands of our soldiers and policemen are tied at points of friction and conflict, and how much blood is shed in vain because of the rule of jurists who block them from protecting first and foremost themselves, and then the friends by their side and the citizens they are [supposed to] protect,” Cohen told the Post.
“As soon as a soldier hesitates and is more afraid of the military advocate-general than for his own life, in the end it leads to terrible results that cost lives,” he said.
"I think things are very clear. We have soldiers that [on one hand] the state sends to life-threatening points of friction and conflict, and on the other hand does not give them the tools to defend their lives."Nevo Cohen
“The intention is to give soldiers and police officers a real tool to protect their lives. The fact that the country has reached such an absurd place that we even have to bring it up in an election campaign only shows what a sad situation we have reached.”
Asked whether this does not give the police and military unlimited power which could be abused, including against settlers, Cohen said that this was bringing the law proposal to the “realms of the absurd.”
“I think things are very clear. We have soldiers that [on the one hand] the state sends to life-threatening points of friction and conflict, and on the other hand does not give them the tools to defend their lives,” he said.
During an interview on Army Radio on Tuesday, Ben-Gvir said that “when we form the government, I will promote the Deportation Law, which will deport anyone who acts against the State of Israel or IDF soldiers. Those who throw stones and Molotov cocktails at soldiers will be deported from here. Those who work against the state like [Joint List MK] Ofer Cassif will be deported. Maybe to Europe – they need working hands there.”
Cohen said that Ben-Gvir had no intention of walking back his comment.
“Someone who supports our enemies in times of both peace and war, who undermines Israel as a Jewish state, who uses violence against security forces, should not be a citizen of Israel,” he said.
Asked whether Jews who attack security forces fall under the same category, Cohen responded: “That is a demagogic statement that is incorrect, inaccurate and a provocation. We know exactly who Israel’s enemies are, who those enemies’ supporters are, and what we believe should be done with them.”