Roping in anti-Trump operatives could backfire for Netanyahu’s rival as U.S. president remains overwhelmingly popular among Israelis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival, Gideon Sa’ar, has hired several advisors from the Lincoln Project, the U.S.-based anti-Trump group, as Israel heads for an early election in two months.
Gideon Sa’ar, who left Israel’s ruling Likud to form his own New Hope party, has roped in Lincoln Project founders Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, Stuart Stevens, and Reed Galen to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu.
There is little evidence to suggest that Lincoln Project’s multi-million dollar advertising and other campaigns managed to draw the Republican base away from President Trump in the November election. However, the failures do not stop the key operative of the notorious anti-Trump group from re-applying their failed strategy in the hopes of ousting Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and a key U.S. ally in the region.
Given their history, the former Lincoln Project operatives are expected to run a smear campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu, focusing on President Trump’s ties.
The Times of Israel, on Sunday, reported the hiring of the top Lincoln Project operatives:
Gideon Sa’ar, a right-wing Netanyahu rival who recently quit the ruling Likud party to run for prime minister as the head of the New Hope party, has hired several campaign advisers from Project Lincoln, who, in recent months, ran a campaign against outgoing US President Donald Trump, in an attempt to thwart his reelection bid, Channel 12 reports.
Lincoln Project founders Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, Stuart Stevens, and Reed Galen, who worked to persuade Republicans that Trump no longer represented them, will face a similar task in convincing the Israeli right that Sa’ar, not Netanyahu, is their true leader now.
A source close to the campaign confirms the report to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, and adds that they are likely to visit Israel as soon as possible.
Sa’ar’s New Hope could emerge as the main rival to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party in the upcoming election.
“Opinion polls project New Hope will become the second-largest party in parliament, smaller than Likud but with enough seats to prevent Netanyahu from assembling a majority,” The Associated Press reported January 15.
Sa’ar is projecting himself as better placed to deal with the incoming Joe Biden administration.
“I think I am in a better position than the prime minister to have an effective and true dialogue with President-elect Biden and his administration,” he said last week.
The Lincoln Project’s efforts are not the first time the U.S. Democratic or anti-Republican campaigners have ganged up to oust Netanyahu. In the 2015 Israeli elections, President Obama’s former national field director, Jeremy Bird, and Democratic strategist, Mark Mellman also advised Netanyahu’s rivals — but failed miserably.
Any attempt by the former Lincoln Project operatives to tie Netanyahu to Trump could backfire badly among Israeli voters who overwhelmingly support the U.S president.
In January 2020, a Pew poll showed that 71 percent of Israeli supported Trump. The survey found that Israel was “one of the few countries widely supportive of the president.” In fact, “the share of net approvers is 18 percentage points higher in Israel than it is in the U.S., the second-most-approving country included in the survey,” the poll concluded. Germany, Sweden, and France showed the least favorable ratings for the U.S. president, with 13, 18, and 20 percent, respectively.
Ahead of the U.S. presidential election, a poll conducted by the Israeli TV channel i24News showed overwhelming support for Trump. More than 63 percent of the Israeli polled in October 2020 said that the Trump presidency was “better for Israel,” compared to just over 18 percent who wanted Biden to win.
“Almost half of correspondents think US Jews are ‘mistaken’ to support Democratic Party,” the pre-election poll showed.
“Pro-Trump activists in Israel have mounted perhaps the most visible Trump reelection campaign outside the United States,” NRP confirmed in November. “Trump posters in Hebrew were plastered on minibuses in Tel Aviv, the heart of liberal Israel. This week, Israeli settlers recited prayers for a Trump victory at the biblical tomb of Abraham, a shrine uneasily shared between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank,” the public broadcaster reported.
This support comes from the pro-Israel policies adopted by the current White House and a series of successful Arab- Israeli peace deals brokered by Trump.
In December 2017, Trump fulfilled a long-standing U.S. promise by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The following year, he moved the U.S. embassy to the Holy City, despite violent protests across the Muslim world and diplomatic rebukes from the United Nations, the European Union, and many Western leaders.
In 2018, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Obama-era Iran nuclear agreement, a deal widely unpopular in Israel and the Middle East.
Strengthening peace in the Middle East is undoubtedly one of the most significant achievements of Trump’s presidency. He concluded his first term with a series of historic peace agreements between Israel and several Arab states. The United Arab Emirates become the first Arab country to establish peace with Israel based on President Trump-brokered Abraham Accords. Subsequently, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco also normalized trade and diplomatic relations with the Jewish State. Before Trump’s framework for peace, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab countries to sign a peace deal with Jerusalem.
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