Netanyahu’s reliance on Arthur Finkelstein led him to completely misread the US presidential race

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One of the more entertaining subplots to emerge since Tuesday’s U.S. election has been learning how absolutely “shellshocked” the Romney campaign was by the loss. They totally didn’t see it coming and it seems much of their misplaced optimism was due to a “super-secret, super-duper vote monitoring system dubbed Project Orca which incidentally failed miserably. Well, it seems that Team Romney wasn’t the only ones given faulty information.

Haaretz gives a behind the scenes look at how Benjamin Netanyahu received the election night news, and he seems to have been just as surprised:

The astonishment that seized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers on Wednesday morning, as President Barack Obama crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to return him to the White House, was as absolute as it was authentic. Netanyahu was utterly convinced that the presidency was in the pocket of the candidate of his choice, his old buddy Mitt Romney. In private conversations, he ridiculed anyone who advised him not to rule out a scenario in which the other candidate was the winner.

What made Netanyahu and his political adviser, the American-born Ron Dermer, ignore the various polling analyses – such as Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog for The New York Times – that were published every day in the American media, and that almost universally predicted an Obama victory?

That question has a two-word answer: Arthur Finkelstein. Until the end, the legendary strategic adviser and polling expert – who is working with Netanyahu and his running mate in the upcoming election in January, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman – hammered it into their heads that Mitt Romney would be the next president of the United States. Finkelstein predicted a 4 percent win for Romney in the popular vote (he lost by approximately 2 percent) and victories in all the swing states (Romney lost all but one).

For Netanyahu, Arthur’s word is sacred. He just has to hope that Finkelstein’s forecast for the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket – 45 seats – will be more accurate. Likud’s Knesset contenders, especially the MKs and newcomers who are huddled on the fringes of the list, have to pray that the meta-pollster isn’t making another meta-mistake.

The day after the election, Netanyahu went into battle mode. Cabinet ministers were instructed not to talk about Obama. Members of the prime minister’s close circle mobilized to rebuff allegations that their boss had intervened in the American elections.

Following the Mother Jones 47% video where Romney said he had “extraordinarily experienced, highly successful consultants” included ones that work for Netanyahu, Phil guessed he was referring to Arthur Finkelstein. This story doesn’t prove it, but it does confirm that Finkelstein is still tied to Netanyahu, and he is evidently the one who came up with the idea for a Likud-Yisrael Beytenu merger.

Will Netanyahu’s reliance on Finkelstein lead to more election night blundering in the upcoming Israeli election? Who knows, but we can safely assume there won’t be an Israeli Project Orca to contend with.

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that project orca link is fabulous! what an all around clusterfup. highly entertaining i recommend it to everyone.

and kudos to phil for calling it early re Arthur Finkelstein.


Arthur Finkelstein also had Bono Mack winning big: [Oct 15] It’s almost as if Rep. Mary Bono Mack and her challenger, Raul Ruiz, are running in altogether different races. Internal polling results obtained Monday, Oct. 15, from Bono Mack’s camp shows the Palm Springs Republican with a hefty 16-point lead… Read more »

Maybe Netanyahu wasn’t aware that an obscure source like the NYT was covering the story…. :) Yes, Nate Silver had the story figured out beforehand. Good for him. But so did (for example), so it wasn’t just Nate Silver. Romney was not popular with many voters in the Republican… Read more »

Absolutely brilliant Adam, thanks a lot, I didn’t have much time to follow the links lately, but I surely followed every single one here. Project Ocra is about the arrogance of power in its disrespect for humans, or “helping hands” Not that I haven’t seen disrespect for volunteers before. But… Read more »

He was listening to the wrong Finkelstein Of course Bibi believes in Jewish exceptionalism and that he’s smarter than all those goy schmucks but he’s just another ayzlkop. He should have take the advice of Nate Silver. I guess Iran will be another flop.