After reportedly hiring four members of the Lincoln Project to advise him in his campaign for prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival is distancing himself from the scandal-ridden Never Trump, pro-Biden organization, if not ending the gig altogether.
In January 2021, Gideon Sa’ar, incumbent “Bibi” Netanyahu’s challenger for the premiership, reportedly hired Steve Schmidt, Stuart Stevens, Rick Wilson, and Reed Galen, but he is apparently or presumably having second thoughts given the allegations against the group’s co-founder John Weaver.
A spokesperson for Sa’ar seemed to be engaging in some form of political spin or double-talk about the contractual status of the “Never Bibi” quartet, however.
“We have never worked with the Lincoln Project. The party engaged four senior consultants who were connected with the project. The individual in question is not known to us, we have never had any contact with him and certainly have not worked with him. In any event, due to financial considerations, the contract with the consultants is under review, and in the coming days, we will examine the possibility of further cooperation,” the spokesman claimed, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.
Sa’ar himself insisted that either way, he never had any plans to run Lincoln Project-style “nasty” attack ads against Netanyahu similar to those it ran against Trump or pro-Trump Republicans in Election 2020.
About Weaver specifically, Sa’ar almost sounded like George Conway in his disavowal. “We didn’t work with him and don’t know him. We are not responsible for him. Right now we’re not working with them. It is strange to transfer this to us across continents.”
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) February 1, 2021
In December 2020, former ally and now rival Gideon Sa’ar bolted Netanyahu’s Likud Party and formed New Hope, one of several groupings on the right, or in this case, center-right.
Hiring Lincoln Project operatives could have backfired on Sa’ar in the first place because President Donald Trump enjoys huge popularity in Israel for a variety of reasons.
An insider with a party that opposes New Hope “noted that Sa’ar has been falling in the polls consistently since he hired them,” the Post claimed.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 18, 2021
Israel goes to the polls on March 23, 2021 to elect a new parliament; it’s fourth election in two years. Israel is the only functioning multicultural democracy in the Middle East. It is a messy one, however, because no one political party dominates, for better or worse, thus requiring complex negotiations with multiple small parties with different agendas to form a government under the country’s parliamentary system.
Netanyahu’s most recent government fell apart in December, which triggered another election, over the failure of his shaky coalition with the center-left Blue and White Party to agree upon a national budget.
According to some opinion polls, Netanyahu’s Likud Party is currently projected to win about 29 seats, the most of any party, but far short of the 61 needed on its own to form a government in the 120-member parliament, the Knesset. New Hope is projected get around 13 seats at this time.
Based on current projections, some form of right-wing government is likely to be installed after the votes are counted next month, although negotiations may be tricky. It remains to be seen if that will include Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, at the helm.
Given the anti-Trump, Never Trump group’s track record, Sa’ar may be wise to re-direct campaign resources to other consultants and advisers. In a takedown of the Lincoln Project, intellectually honest progressive journalist Glenn Greenwald writes on Substack that “That the primary effect of the Lincoln Project was to personally enrich its key operatives by cynically exploiting the fears of U.S. liberals has long been obvious…The very idea that this freakish hodgepodge of life-long D.C. Republican consultants were men of profound conscience defending the Republic was a complete and total joke.
“They are life-long grifters, responsible for some of the most grotesque and amoral attack ads in the modern era, with a very long and recent history of advocating the exact opposite values of what they claimed to represent once they opportunistically identified the optimal Trump-era profit model: namely, relentlessly fleece scared and gullible #Resistance liberals of their cash by posturing as brave and principled warriors against Trumpism. But their lucrative scheme could never have succeeded without the knowingly fraudulent cooperation of liberal networks such as MSNBC and CNN.”
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