Jeremy Bird, national field director for President Obama’s 2012 campaign, is drawing attention for his consulting work in support of an Israeli organization campaigning to replace Israel’s current government.
WASHINGTON — Jeremy Bird, the architect of the grass-roots and online organizing efforts that powered President Obama’s presidential campaigns from Chicago, is advising a similar operation in Tel Aviv. But this time it is focused on ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
His consulting work for the group V15 — an independent Israeli organization that does not support specific candidates but is campaigning to replace Israel’s current government — has added another political layer to the diplomatic mess surrounding Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday about Iran.
The Obama administration has argued that Netanyahu’s plan to deliver the speech two weeks before the Israeli elections is harming the U.S.-Israel relationship by injecting partisanship.
Republicans contend it is Obama who is playing politics and cite Bird’s work as proof the president is rooting for Netanyahu’s defeat.
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U.S. strategists have for decades signed on to work in Israeli political campaigns, with Democrats usually aligned with the Labor Party and Republicans often backing Netanyahu’s Likud party.
There is no evidence to suggest Obama or any of his senior aides had anything to do with the move by his former top campaign official, who has never worked at the White House, to join the effort to defeat Netanyahu.
But Bird’s involvement in the elections is drawing attention when tensions between the two countries are so acute that what is usually considered standard practice for U.S. political consultants in Israel is now seen as a provocation.
“It’s clearly a data point that people are looking to that indicates how the relationship has deteriorated,’’ said Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Asked about the suggestion that Obama was tacitly backing an effort to oust Netanyahu, Josh Earnest, the administration press secretary, said: “The long tradition of bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship has served both our countries well for generations, and President Obama will continue to go to great lengths to shield our alliance from the smallness of party politics.”
Bird, Obama’s national field director in 2012 and a founding partner of the political consulting firm 270 Strategies, declined to be interviewed.
But he said through a spokeswoman that V15 and its partners had asked him and his firm “to share best practices in organizing so they can maximize their impact both online and on the ground.”