Barak's Triumph: Blair's aide helped Barak to landslide

Election Strategy
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The Independent Online
AS ISRAEL was adjusting to Ehud Barak's sweeping electoral triumph over Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, it emerged that close aides to Tony Blair and Bill Clinton had been working closely with Mr Barak's Labour Party and transforming it in the way Mr Blair modernised Labour.

Philip Gould, who advises the Prime Minister on public opinion, and Stan Greenberg, who does the same job for President Clinton, have held monthly strategy meetings in Israel for the past two years with Mr Barak, the new Israeli Prime Minister. Confidential documents seen by The Independent reveal the extent of their work in helping the Israeli Labour Party back to power.

Mr Barak even came to London for a two-day session on how to remodel his image.

The direct involvement of Blair and Clinton aides followed an appeal for help by Daniel Levy, the Tel Aviv-based son of Lord Levy, a friend and the tennis partner of Mr Blair.

Mr Gould and Mr Greenberg were the architects of the proposal that the party change its name, even suggesting it be called New Labour. In the event, the Labour Party kept its name but fought the election under the One Israel banner, the name of the alliance it formed with two smaller parties.

How much of a difference the new model Labour Party made to the outcome of the election is doubted by some Israeli analysts. Mr Barak won, they believe, because so many of Mr Netanyahu's colleagues had been fired or deserted and set up the Centre Party to remove him. Mr Barak's strategy amounted to keeping his mouth shut and watching his opponent self-destruct.

When they became involved in 1997, Mr Gould and Mr Greenberg warned that the modernisation of Labour was the most important and difficult task facing the Barak campaign.

At first they thoughtLabour's prospects were poor. The party's combination of "elitism plus softness on the core security issues" was summed up as "fatal". A centre-left party must do two things, they advised: "It must be the party of the people. This means the party of the new middle class; the new majority; hard-working; tough-minded. It must win the centre: on security; on crime; on welfare it has to be tough, not soft."

Mr Gould and Mr Greenberg said Labour was not considered to be "the party of the people".

Last night Mr Gould said most of the credit should go to Mr Greenberg, a partner in his London-based political consultancy. "Stan did an extraordinary job. He kept faith during a difficult project and got an incredible result," Mr Gould said.

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