Campaign guru Arthur Finkelstein dies at 72

Arthur Finkelstein, the man who helped PM Netanyahu win the 1996 elections, dies of lung cancer at age 72.

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Arthur Finkelstein
Arthur Finkelstein
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Republican campaign guru Arthur Finkelstein died on Friday night, his family reported.

Finkelstein helped several Republicans get elected to Congress, and helped Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with their election campaigns.

Finkelstein died of lung cancer, in his Ipswich, Massachusetts, home.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said, "Arthur FInkelstein passed away over the weekend. He was a unique man with a captivating personality. He was a wise man with a special touch."

"I met Arthur at a heated argument during the 1996 election campaign. The argument was about whether the election slogan ought to be '[Shimon] Peres will divide Jerusalem,' which is what the Likud campaign had started with. I was against that slogan, but as usual, Arthur was right, and the decision turned out to be significant, because it led to the election of Netanyahu and the Likud.

"Arthur was a polymath, knowledgeable in several areas, but before anything else, he was a warm Jew with a great love of the State of Israel. Arthur was an excellent professional, whose activities around the world brought him in contact with presidents and prime ministers - but he never changed his comfortable personality, and he always remained sociable. On a personal level, Arthur was a true friend, and I will always remember him as a most fascinating person. It was a true privilege to know him."

In condolences sent to the Finkelsteins on Saturday night, Netanyahu wrote, "Arthur was a loyal friend, a professional, and deeply committed to the State of Israel."

Larry Weitzner, spokesman for Finkelstein's family said: "'Arthur,' as everyone who has worked with him called him, had passion in his soul, poetry in his heart and brilliance in his mind. He set out to change the world and he did just that. His messaging skills, theatrical touch and strategic genius resulted in the election of Presidents and over a dozen Senators, two Prime Ministers in Israel and leaders around the world."

"At the age of 26 Arthur worked on President Nixon’s re-election, and was actively involved in President Reagan’s campaigns. He was credited with developing the 'Panama Canal' strategy for President Reagan.

"Arthur was also well known for his work in New York politics- the election of Conservative Party Senator Jim Buckley, Hempstead town supervisor Alfonse D’Amato’s upset election and re-elections to the United States Senate, and little known State Senator and former Peekskill Mayor George Pataki’s defeat of Governor Mario Cuomo in 1994 and later re-election campaigns. His brilliance transcended state lines. He won numerous Senate races throughout the United States, including in Florida, where he engineered Senator Connie Mack’s iconic 1988 victory and his re-election in 1994.

"Often credited with turning the term 'liberal' into an attack in politics, Arthur’s skills at messaging and polling were far more sophisticated than a simple word or phrase. He brilliantly helped develop Binyamin Netanyahu’s vision for a 'secure peace' and helped voters to view the hawkish war general Ariel Sharon as a leader who was also a trusted grandfatherly figure.

"Feared by his opponents, respected by his peers and beloved by two generations of Republican consultants whose work bears his influence, Arthur, a libertarian at heart, treated the intern in a campaign office with the same respect he gave the client (and sometimes more). He was a mentor, teacher and friend to hundreds of 'Arthur’s kids' –a title all of us cherish. Always the center of attention, whether with his friends, family or clients—Arthur charmed us with his wit, kindness and honesty.

"Arthur liked his coffee black, his shoes off, his shirts blue, his steak medium rare (preferably at his beloved Peter Luger in Brooklyn) and his Gimlets strong. His greeting to all was 'Good Morning' as it was always morning some place in the world.

"Arthur was one of kind. He made a difference. He changed politics. He sought to make the world a better place, and to spread the power of freedom. He will be missed but never forgotten."