Former Bill Clinton strategist and pollster Stanley Greenberg, who is today advising the Israeli Labor Party, is accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having ordered the Watergate-style break-in of his Washington office almost fourteen years ago.
In 1999, the office of Greenberg’s polling company was broken into twice within two weeks. After the first overnight intrusion into the building situated just blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Israeli media likened the incident to the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
In the second incident, intruders broke through a second story window and disabled an alarm that was installed after the first theft.
At the time, Greenberg was advising Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who was running for Prime Minister, and ultimately beat Netanyahu. Labor Party sources said then that files primarily related to their campaign were seized by the thieves. Labor Party official Tal Silberstein then said the culprits “knew exactly what they wanted because the only file taken was the one dealing with the Israeli campaign.”
With Israeli elections just three weeks away, Greenberg is again advising the Labor Party, now under Shelly Yachimovich. Perhaps to score a political point for his client, he chose on Sunday to blame Netanyahu for the 1999 criminal acts in Washington. However, he admitted he has no evidence to back it up his accusation.
In an interview Sunday night with Israel’s Channel 2 News, Greenberg was asked about the 1999 break-in in which top secret documents were stolen. This was the exchange with Correspondent Amit Segal:
Q: Do you still believe it was Mr. Netanyahu’s command?
A: [Laugh] Without evidence. But, yeah, I can’t find anyplace else.
Segal asked him if his offices were broken into again now that he’s on another Israeli campaign, to which he answered: “Not that I know of [laugh]. Though we did move into new offices that are much more secure that are in a building because of that.”
Greenberg has stacked up an impressive list of clients. Besides Bill Clinton, he has been a campaign strategy consultant for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In the loss column: he was adviser to Democrat John Kerry and Israeli candidate Amir Peretz, also of the Labor Party, who lost his campaign for prime minister seven years ago.
Today, Greenberg is spearheading a campaign focused on social and economic issues in a country that has traditionally voted over defense matters.
Last year, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that the idea for the 2011 summer tent economic protests was planted at a Tel Aviv meeting with Greenberg three months earlier, something Greenberg denies.
When Labor Party members elected their list of candidates for Knesset, their hope was to translate the success of the huge social-economic rallies into political gains.
Channel 2 Correspondent Amit Segal told Greenberg on Sunday that it appeared his strategy of focusing on social-economic issues was failing to attract votes to Labor.
Greenberg said, “First of all, the election is not over. And that’s not what our polling shows. First of all, the voters do want an election that address[es] social and economic issues.”
Netanyahu is expected to again be prime minister after the January 22 vote.
Segal asked, “How do you explain the huge gap between the enthusiasm of last summer’s tent protest and the almost indifference in this winter election?”
There’s just a big difference between all of those things that go into, you know, the support groups for a party and a social movement. And then when you get to an election and the kind of energy around elections are different. Elections are not social protests, and have a different kind of energy to them.
In 1998, Netanyahu mocked his then-rival Barak for relying so much on his American advisers, which included James Carville. Netanyahu then referred to Greenberg in a Knesset speech as he addressed Barak: “Indeed, you frequently dial the 202 area code. For whoever doesn’t know, that’s Washington. I don’t know how savvy that Greenberg is about Israeli politics.
Today the strategist for Netanyahu’s party Likud-Israel Beiteinu is American Arthur Finkelstein, who is also a GOP consultant.
Greenberg tells Segal he thinks Israeli politics are “much more interesting,” but that since he’s Jewish, it “comes with the territory.”
Watch excerpts of the Greenberg interview here interspersed with Hebrew commentary: