Israel elections: Netanyahu's chief strategist has quit, says report


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone with potential voters ahead of the upcoming Israeli elections on January 17, 2013. in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israeli elections are scheduled for January 22 and so far showing a majority for the Israeli right.


Uriel Sinai

JERUSALEM — Israel's Channel 10 reported late on Thursday that Arthur Finkelstein, the chief strategist for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, quit just four days before the Israeli elections.

GlobalPost's senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reported from Jerusalem that Likud had issued a vague denial, saying Finkelstein and his partner, George Birnbaum, were not expected back in Israel before election day and "the campaign continues according to schedule."

Finkelstein himself said the Channel 10 report "is false and shows ill will," but did not deny having left.

Tarnopolsky said, "We may never know exactly what happened, but it is a real sign of disarray. No campaign wants its chief strategist leaving the country four days before election day."

"Whether Finkelstein has left the campaign or 'merely' left the country, this is outward evidence of what we have been hearing more and more of, which is that he is being blamed for a strategy that has cost Netanyahu up to 10 seats in parliament, according to some polls, since the start of this election," she added.

More on GlobalPost: Israel election: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is losing votes

The Jerusalem Post said a source connected to Finkelstein told the daily that the strategist had not quit. "The report is much ado about nothing," said the source. "Arthur is never here on election day. Birnbaum left for personal reasons."

This latest news comes on the heels of reports that US President Barack Obama privately expressed doubt about Netanyahu's leadership, saying Israel "doesn't know what its own best interests are."

On Wednesday, Netanyahu reportedly said, "I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state," according to Agence France Presse.

Polls from Wednesday and Thursday show that Likud, merged with ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, is still predicted to take between 32 and 37 of the 120 Knesset seats, according to Reuters.

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