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Barak’s Washington consultant victimized by a second burglary

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (JTA) — For the second time in just over a week, burglars broke into the Washington office of an American political consultant hired to advise Israel’s Labor Party candidate for prime minister. Files relating to Ehud Barak’s campaign were seized early this week after intruders broke through a second story window and disabled a new alarm system that had been installed in pollster Stanley Greenberg’s office after the first break-in, according to a Labor campaign official. Last week’s burglary was quickly dubbed in the Israeli media as “Israel’s Watergate,” and several Labor legislators immediately pointed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the likely culprit. Likud officials have called the allegation an “obscenity,” and following this week’s break-in, a spokeswoman for Netanyahu alleged that the effort was staged to smear the Likud Party. “It looks like a cheap provocation by our adversaries whose aim is to cast false suspicions on the Likud,” Likud spokeswoman Ronit Eckstein told United Press International. “They’re just poor-man’s Watergate stories.” Washington media consultant Steve Rabinowitz, who has also been advising Barak on his campaign, said, “Stanley Greenberg did not break into his own office and then file a false police report.” Calling the latest incident “outrageous,” Rabinowitz said that “even Watergate wasn’t burglarized twice.” “We’re certainly not pointing the finger at any political candidate or political partner,” he added, “except to say it’s obviously Barak’s political opponents.” The FBI and Washington police are investigating both incidents. In last week’s break-in, burglars snatched confidential files and petty cash from Greenberg Quinlan Research Inc, located only a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Greenberg, President Clinton’s former pollster and a partner in the firm, was recently hired as an adviser to Barak, along with Democratic Party consultant James Carville. Greenberg’s firm has provided no details about what was stolen in either break-in, saying only it believes its work on the Israeli campaign has been targeted. In Israel, police this week disclosed that members of Barak’s team had reported a wave of break-ins in their homes over the past four months. In each of the incidents no personal possessions were stolen. (JTA correspondent Naomi Segal in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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