New Head of Left-wing Party Apologizes After Lying About Adviser Who Worked for Far Right

'It pains me that I managed to disappoint so many in so little time,' says Tamar Zandberg, adding that the scandal has been 'blown beyond any reasonable proportion'

Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg
Tomer Appelbaum

Freshly elected Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg released a video on her public Facebook page where she speaks out on a scandal that stained her first few days at the helm of the party.

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Speaking on camera, Zandberg said she was sorry she had “disappointed so many in so little time” but at the same time claimed the issue of her meetings with campaign manager Moshe Klughaft had been “blown out of proportions, beyond any reasonable logic.”

During her campaign for the primaries, Zandberg met on several occasions with Moshe Klughaft, a renown strategy consultant who previously worked for the far right, but tried to keep the contacts secret.

Alongside working on the campaign of Habayit Hayehudi Chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Klughaft also created aggressive campaigns against Israeli human rights groups and left-wing activists close to Meretz.

His work includes a video published by Im Tirtzu that accused activists from the New Israel Fund and other left-wing groups of acting as agents for foreign governments.

Im Tirtzu

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At the height of the Im Titrzu campaign, posters were disseminated that depicted New Israel Fund Chairwoman and former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan with a horn on her forehead.

“I met with him four times in the last few months, twice at his home in Givat Shmuel and twice at my place in Tel Aviv,” she admits in the Facebook post. “The last time he came over it was only five days before the elections, and he named a few artists he knew who could support my candidacy to the leadership of Meretz,” added Zandberg in the video.

Asked by Haaretz whether she had been in touch with Moshe Klughaft last week, Zandberg adamantly denied any contact. Her claims were exposed as false when Klughaft gave an interview to Israel Television News Company saying he did indeed consult for the Zanberg campaign.

A person involved in the campaign told Haaretz: “They were in continuous contact throughout the campaign. They were not friends, it was a professional relationship.”

Klughaft’s revelation put newly elected Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg in a difficult position both politically and legally. On the one hand, she was exposed as lying and as resorting to the advice of a strategist who previously worked for Meretz’s political arch-rivals, such as Naftali Bennett’s “The Jewish Home.”

From the legal angle, Zandberg was exposed as having received strategic advice from a consultant without disclosing it to the state State Comptroller.

Under Israeli law, candidates have to declare all volunteers who work on their campaigns to the State Comptroller, as volunteering is seen as being a potential channel of illegal donations. That is, by not declaring her consultations with Moshe Klughaft Zandberg broke the law, even if the prominent Israeli strategist was reportedly not paid.