Aide Says Clinton "Actively" Worked for Likud Defeat

July 7, 2008 - 8:06 PM

Jerusalem (CNS) – Clinton administration officials actively played a role in the defeat last month of Binyamin Netanyahu, a senior advisor to the outgoing Israeli prime minister has charged.

The allegation by David Bar-Ilan, in an article written for the June 14 edition of National Review magazine, backs up those made consistently by Jerusalem officials speaking unattributably during the campaign.

Administration officials have denied the claims, although leading U.S. newspapers reported there was undisguised delight in official circles after Ehud Barak's May 17 victory, and the New York Times quoted an official as saying the administration had "clearly had an impact in Israel and the polling shows that."

Bar-Ilan, who gave up the editorship of The Jerusalem Post in 1996 to advise Netanyahu on media and communications, said the administration ran an "unremitting, smoothly orchestrated campaign aimed at causing Netanyahu's defeat at the polls."

Rather than endorse Barak publicly – as it did in the case of Shimon Peres during the 1996 campaign, and found the strategy to have backfired – "the administration preferred active measures to discredit Netanyahu," he charged.

"In the four months preceding the election, hardly a day passed without a Washington story about Netanyahu failing to keep his word."

Bar-Ilan said Washington's Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross, had privately supported Netanyahu's view that Israel was not obliged to move ahead with its commitments in the Wye agreement until the Palestinians met their obligations, but declined to do so on the record and thus make the policy official.

Instead, other officials, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, backed Palestinian claims that they had carried out their commitments, while Israel had not.

"The anti-Israel tilt was complete. The Ross statement remained anonymous and worthless, while the Albright admonition – a bald bit of skillful disinformation – became the administration's mantra \'85"

Bar-Ilan also cited a New York Times report quoting James Carville, one of "Clinton's 1992 election crew" who advised opposition candidate Barak, as saying he "regularly briefs the President of the progress of the Labor leader's campaign."

And he noted that prominent contributors to the Democratic Party had made donations to the Barak's camp. Israel has strict laws restricting campaign funding from abroad.

Bar-Ilan suggested a number of other factors he said had contributed to Netanyahu's downfall – including a campaign of "character assassination" in the media and a "rash of [police] investigations of Netanyahu associates" – but in the final analysis argued that his defeat could be seen in the light of the collapse of conservative campaigns elsewhere.

Citing election results in Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and in the U.S. Congress, Bar-Ilan noted that "conservatives everywhere seem to be victims of their own success."

The end of the communist threat left conservatives in the West with "few issues of mass appeal."

In the Israeli case, Netanyahu succeeded in moving concerns about terrorism down the public agenda, precisely by succeeding in reducing the security threat.

"He has proved that when [Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser] Arafat can control the terrorists and will do so if there is a price to pay for abetting terrorism. But the decline in terrorism reduced the Israeli electorate's concern for security. When Netanyahu ran in 1996, 70 per cent of Israelis considered security their number one concern, which is why Netanyahu won then. Now only 27 per cent do, which is one of the reasons he lost."

Bar-Ilan suggested conservatives in Israel and elsewhere needed to "rethink their agenda in terms of today's world" and to build an infrastructure in the media and academic communities to promote that agenda.

White House spokesman Michael Hammer said in reaction the Clinton administration had "in no way became involved in the internal politics of the Israeli election," while Larry Schwartz, spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, said the "administration did its very best to stay out of the election campaign to allow Israelis to chose their own destiny."

In March CNS quoted government officials in Jerusalem who accused officials in Washington of interfering in the campaign and of engaging in "snub diplomacy," shunning Netanyahu while feting Palestinian leaders at the White House.