Remember those apolitical social protests in Tel Aviv last summer? Turns out they may not have been so apolitical after all. What were hints of politicking then have now become an established fact. Two of the student leaders who spearheaded last summer’s demonstrations are now on the Labor Party’s list of Knesset hopefuls aiming to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And a key former adviser to President Bill Clinton is helping them in their effort.
Israeli media are reporting that Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg has been officially hired as strategist by Israel’s Labor Party, headed by Shelly Yachimovich, and that the two central leaders of the social protests last summer – Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shaffir – are now running as Labor Party candidates for Knesset.
Besides Clinton, Greenberg has previously advised John Kerry and Tony Blair. Israeli media and the website of his firm Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner list among his clients: the British Labour Party and Germany’s Social-Democrats (SPD). He also advised Ehud Barak in his 1999 campaign in which he beat Likud’s Netanyahu.
The Marker and Globes report that Greenberg and Yachimovich met six months ago and agreed in principle that they would work together. According to The Jerusalem Post, the deal was finalized earlier this month:
“It is an honor for me to work with Shelly Yacimovich and the Labor Party in the upcoming election,” Greenberg said. “Yacimovich has the ideology and the strengths needed to bring change and make sure Israel will move in the right direction for its citizens.”
He added that, in the past, he has worked with prominent politicians around the world, and expressed confidence that Yacimovich “has what it takes to lead her country.”
For her part, Yachimovich said she wanted to work with Greenberg, because they share political ideology and because he works internationally with other social-democratic parties. The Post quoted her as saying: “Greenberg will help us put together a campaign based on our clear ideology, which will serve as a sharp alternative to Netanyahu’s bad government.”
While the 2011 protests brought out throngs of Israelis voicing their exasperation with the high cost of food, education and housing, even last year there were indications that those at the helm had a political agenda.
Last fall, Maariv investigative reporter Kalman Liebskind reported that the idea for the protests was actually planted at a Tel Aviv meeting three months earlier between Greenberg and several dozen left-wing strategists and activists who discussed how a political upheaval could be initiated.
As TheBlaze reported then on Liebskind’s findings:
Later, some of these activists met a larger group where Greenberg’s proposals (referred to as “Stanley’s Plan”) were presented. The initiative was allegedly an effort to spawn a large protest, then to use the mass of individuals who would rise to decide future elections. Mixed in with this plan was purportedly the notion that a controlled political context would pave the way toward a more viable political agreement with the Palestinians.
At the first meeting – which TheBlaze is unable to independently confirm – Greenberg reportedly presented his “ten commandments to victory,” saying “This is how the right will be defeated if we work hard and right.”
The Jerusalem Post reports that in November 2011 Greenberg denied the report that he had told the left-wing activists that grassroots, socioeconomic protests were the way to lure votes away from Netanyahu and right-wing politicians. It reports:
When asked by The Jerusalem Post in Washington if he helped initiate the protests, Greenberg replied via e-mail: “No. Not true.”
As a result of the protests, the Netanyahu government implemented a series of reforms including providing free preschool education from the age of three.
President Obama’s relations with Netanyahu have been strained over policy and worldview, which has been demonstrated repeatedly. Examples include the now infamous hot mic incident last November when Obama bemoaned to then French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that he has to “deal every day” with Netanyahu. And the 2010 visit to Washington in which President Obama reportedly humiliated Netanyahu by leaving him with his staff while the President withdrew to a private dinner.
While Greenberg’s hiring does not mean there is any official Democratic Party involvement on the Israeli campaign scene, a change of Israel’s leadership would unlikely be met by any tears in the Democratic administration, if Obama himself is reelected.