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Lapid’s US pollster sees 10 years of work come to ‘dramatic, emotional’ fruition

7 16 0
13.07.2021

American communications and strategic adviser Mark Mellman was alone at his Washington DC home on June 2 when the news broke in Ramat Gan, Israel.

From the sixth floor of the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel at around 11 p.m. local time, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid had called then-president Reuven Rivlin and informed him that they had succeeded in forming a government. A photo of the two signing a coalition agreement with Mansour Abbas, head of an Islamist party called Ra’am, and a clip of the two of them talking to the president on the phone soon surfaced on Twitter.

It was 4 p.m. in Washington, and Mellman was following developments intently.

“Honestly, it was very emotional. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. It was dramatic,” Mellman told The Times of Israel this week in a video call. “I had no one to toast with so I made a blessing” — the shehecheyanu blessing recited by Jews upon special occasions.

A week and a half later, Mellman, who has been Lapid’s strategic adviser for the past 10 years, was sitting in the Knesset VIP gallery and watching the proceedings, from Bennett’s inaugural speech to ministers taking their oaths of office.

“I saw all of the heckling from the Haredim, and Likud,” he said of the hectic session during which the designated prime minister found it hard to speak without interruption from the opposition. “It was what we call a hillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name)… I thought it was a horrific display of disrespect to Bennett that was just uncalled for and unbelievable. I know the Knesset is a raucous place, but there’s a time and a place for everything, including good and decent behavior.”

The American consultant, who has been at Lapid’s side since the former journalist entered politics, claims to understand Israeli society from within. He makes frequent trips to the Jewish state and spends long hours on the phone and in video meetings with Lapid and Yesh Atid’s senior staff.

Mellman advises on media strategy and on political tactics based on research and polling. As head of the Mellman Group, which has extensive consulting experience, he has worked with numerous politicians from the Democratic Party and is considered one of the leading campaign advisers in the US.

He has worked with former Democratic Senate majority leader Sen. Harry Reid, and with multiple Democratic US Senators, members of the House of Representatives and governors. He also has other international clients besides Lapid, such as former South African president Jacob Zuma, former Colombian president César Gaviria, and Lulzim Basha, Albania’s opposition leader.

An active member of Kesher Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, Mellman is also the founder of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group aiming to shore up support for the Jewish state in the Democratic Party and diminish anti-Zionist trends in the American political liberal left. DFMI opposes BDS groups, opposed the candidacy of Bernie Sanders to be the leader of the Democratic Party, and supported the Congressional candidacy of Elliott Engel, a longtime New York congressman who eventually lost his party primary to Israel critic Jamaal Bowman.

Speaking to The Times of Israel several weeks after the swearing-in ceremony that saw Lapid become foreign minister, Mellman said his relationships with the Yesh Atid leader and with Israel were different from his ties to other politicians and countries........

© The Times of Israel


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