Political strategists Roni Rimon, left, and Tami Sheinkman
Political strategists Roni Rimon, left, and Tami Sheinkman
Photos: Social Media
Political strategists Roni Rimon, left, and Tami Sheinkman

Israel’s political operatives have no permanent home

Veteran strategist Tami Sheinkman says that some affiliation to a client's politics is important, while seasoned campaign manager Roni Rimon says the lack of electoral races in Israel means 'you almost have to switch parties'

Uri Cohen / The Media Line |
Published: 03.12.21 , 09:02
Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away, but with the electoral picture getting hazier by the day and no clear victor emerging, many analysts and operatives are already gearing for a potential fifth election cycle in two years.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • The seemingly irresolvable deadlock in the Knesset has led to endless campaigning, with some strategists and tacticians finding themselves on one side of the aisle after only just advising the opposing side the previous round.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Political strategists Roni Rimon, left, and Tami Sheinkman
    Political strategists Roni Rimon, left, and Tami Sheinkman
    Political strategists Roni Rimon, left, and Tami Sheinkman
    (Photos: Social Media)
    “Just like in business, you can advise one firm and then the next day advise its fierce competitor,” says Roni Rimon, one of Israel’s most seasoned campaign managers.
    “In Israel, unlike in the United States, you almost have to switch parties, because there aren’t that many political campaigns. It’s a limited business. We don’t have sheriffs and district attorney races, only parliamentary elections.”
    Rimon, who in the past handled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful run for office, among others, remembers having to attack rival candidates with whom he had recently worked and was close.
    “As long as it’s not below the belt, there shouldn’t be a problem,” he says. “You can point to someone’s shortcomings regarding the issues at hand, without telling the whole world his inner secrets. It’s all about integrity.”
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו ובני גנץ אישור כנסת קריאה טרומית ראשונה את פיזור הכנסת ממשלה ירושלים מליאה
    בנימין נתניהו ובני גנץ אישור כנסת קריאה טרומית ראשונה את פיזור הכנסת ממשלה ירושלים מליאה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his main political rival in the last three elections, Benny Gantz, during the vote to disperse the 23rd Knesset
    (Photo: Knesset Channel)
    Tami Sheinkman, a top political and media strategist, believes some ideological identification with a candidate is essential for an adviser to be effective.
    “Like any profession, you have to bring your professional, not personal, agenda," she says. "Having said that, I tried over the years to remain loyal to my values.”
    Sheinkman, who in past years led the campaigns of Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni and, most recently, Moshe Ya’alon, stresses that connecting with a client’s personality is more important than supporting their agenda.
    “In the past, Israel had a clear ideological divide; parties represented substantial differences. These days, strategists aren’t managing parties but rather the person heading them and his own persona,” she says.
    “You have to believe in that person, give them your all! Of course, all the while remaining critical and professional.”
    “In the past, Israel had a clear ideological divide; parties represented substantial differences. These days, strategists aren’t managing parties but rather the person heading them and his own persona,” she says.
    “You have to believe in that person, give them your all! Of course, all the while remaining critical and professional.”
    Add Rimon: “I can work with someone whom I like personally, but I have to take a step back to maintain my professional integrity. You actually need some mental distancing from the campaign.”
    “Totally identifying with your client may harm your professional judgment. If you become a fan, you’re not an adviser. You have to detach yourself emotionally and identify his shortcomings, not be starry-eyed.”
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בחירות 2021: איך יצביעו מבודדים וחולי קורונה
    בחירות 2021: איך יצביעו מבודדים וחולי קורונה
    Israel prepares for its second national elections of the coronavirus pandemic
    (Photo: Haim Levi)
    A campaign manager who has worked for several candidates in recent years, and who wished to remain unnamed because of their involvement in the current cycle, admitted that switching sides wasn’t easy.
    “You have to remember what your job is,” the strategist says. “Of course you wouldn’t do something that totally goes against your beliefs, but within that framework, your job is always to help your client’s goals, not yours.”
    Both Rimon and Sheinkman say they had refused to work with some clients because of ideological differences.
    “The people themselves were great; we could have easily become friends. But I can’t represent an organization whose activity is totally against my values,” Rimon says.
    The turnover rate of the past year, thanks to Israel’s three consecutive election cycles, has led some consultants to publicly criticize their former employers within weeks of switching gigs.
    “It embarrasses me,” an outraged Sheinkman says. “I can’t understand this disloyalty. I think it disgraces the profession. They have to realize they’re just the advisers, not the candidate. Don’t get confused, your job is behind the scenes.”
    “Whatever the level of intimacy advisers and candidates reach during their work together, campaigners should never disparage their clients once the work is done,” Rimon agrees.
    “It’s ugly. It’s not done. If someone lets you enter their inner circle, treats you like family, gives you full access – revealing all that is nothing short of betrayal.”
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid
    (Photo: Contact)
    As for the current race, entering the homestretch with just days to go, the veteran campaigners advise caution.
    “Netanyahu’s strategy is extremely smart, ignoring his challengers from within the right wing and focusing his attacks on [Opposition Leader Yair] Lapid,” Rimon says. “That will drive right-wing voters to Netanyahu.”
    Adds Sheinkman: “The public is tired, from the coronavirus, from the politicians and all the lies. There’s an indifference. Fifth elections are definitely an option, the way things look now. But that’s not to say things won’t change in the remaining days.”

    Article published with permission from The Media Line
    Talkbacks for this article 0