American Political Consultants Also Won and Lost in Israel’s Election

After November, Six Jewish Consultants Switched Their Focus

High Marks: American political consultant Mark Mellman is credited with engineering Yair Lapid’s strong showing in Israel’s election.
Nathan Guttman
High Marks: American political consultant Mark Mellman is credited with engineering Yair Lapid’s strong showing in Israel’s election.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 31, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
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“It will be easier to win with a united right-wing bloc,” he said in a rare interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News this past October. He predicted that the new party would win 42 seats, a far cry from the 31 seats it ended up with. Nevertheless, many analysts believe that without the merger, the Likud could have come in as the second-largest party, paving the way for Lapid to become prime minister and sending Netanyahu to the opposition.

For Israel’s struggling Labor Party, the choice of Greenberg as an outside adviser came as no surprise. He had worked with the party for more than a decade. The results were mixed. Labor, headed now by Shelley Yachimovich, got 15 seats; this was more than it had in the outgoing Knesset, but not enough to help the party regain its status as one of Israel’s two major political powers.

The toughest task, however, faced Democratic consultant Eichenbaum, who worked with Kadima, led by Shaul Mofaz. The party was handicapped by four years in the opposition and by internal fighting that had led Tzipi Livni, one of its stars, to break off and form a new party.

“We went into this election with nothing,” Eichenbaum said in a January 28 panel discussion with Mellman and Gerstein, organized by the Washington DC Jewish community center. “There was no Kadima brand to hang on to.”

When the vote count was complete, it appeared that Kadima just made it, passing the minimum threshold. With two seats, it will be the smallest party in the Knesset. Eichenbaum said the lesson he took back from working with Kadima was how difficult it was, in Israel’s multi-party system, to unify the pro-peace camp. “I saw how easy it is for the left to do the circular firing squad,” he said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

This story was amended on February 20 to reflect the fact that Bill Knapp did not work on the 2013 election for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu coalition.


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