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Netanyahu campaigns last March. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his main rival, Gideon Saar, will both have Republican strategists running their campaigns ahead of the elections on March 23.

Why it matters: The competition between Netanyahu and Saar’s American advisers will be an extension of the rivalry inside the Republican Party between the pro-Trump and "never Trump" camps. 

Driving the news: Saar recruited Republican consultants Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, Stuart Stevens and Reed Galen, whose Lincoln Project aimed to push Republican voters away from Donald Trump.

  • They'll now attempt to push Israeli right-wing voters away from Netanyahu to the New Hope party founded by Saar, who left Likud over his rivalry with Netanyahu.
  • The news was first reported by Israel’s Channel 12 and confirmed to me by one of Saar's aides.
  • The state of play: Saar has had limited success so far. Polls show his party with 15 seats vs. 30 for Netanyahu and Likud.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, appointed former Breitbart Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein to run his election campaign. Klein, who has been advising Netanyahu for the last year, worked closely with Steve Bannon during Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

  • Netanyahu will also continue working with Trump’s pollster, John McLaughlin.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - World

Israel's COVID crisis deepens even as the vaccination rate climbs

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters clash with security forces over lockdown enforcement Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had hoped to declare victory over the pandemic before the elections on March 23, but new fast-spreading variants of COVID-19 have dashed those hopes.

Why it matters: Netanyahu's main political vulnerability is his handling of the pandemic. He has acknowledged that his poll numbers will be directly connected to the rates of vaccinations, new infections and deaths, as well as his ability to reopen the economy.

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Israel's chief epidemiologist creates diplomatic incident with UAE

Israeli travelers arrive in Dubai. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

A remark by Israel’s chief epidemiologist suggesting the opening of direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv had led to COVID-19 deaths in Israel resulted in diplomatic protests from the UAE, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Direct flights were one of the main fruits of the Israel-UAE peace treaty, and around 130,000 Israeli tourists have taken advantage by flying to Dubai since December.

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

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