Jeffrey Goldberg: Netanyahu Used Israeli ‘Southern Strategy’ to Win Reelection

Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Wednesday, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg repeatedly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral strategy which he labeled “the Israeli version of the Southern Strategy.”  

In introducing Goldberg, Andrea Mitchell maintained that Netanyahu’s electoral strategy “in the last 48 hours was really pretty telling” before she allowed her guest to tear into the prime minister’s “fairly breathtaking” actions. 

The Atlantic writer went on to accuse Netanyahu as merely “cannibalizing” voters from other right-wing parties in order to win reelection: 

He basically won by cannibalizing voters from the other right-wing parties, people who had been Likud voters and had come home. In other words, he didn't expand the right-wing camp necessarily, but what he did was he kind of took a mask off, if you will. 

Goldberg then argued that Netanyahu won by utilizing the “Israeli version of the Southern Strategy” to help scare his base to turn out and vote for Likud: 

He kind of played the Israeli version of the Southern Strategy and basically tried to scare his base into coming out and giving their votes to him by saying essentially the Arabs are coming. Now Arabs in Israel vote, they're full citizens and they have a right to vote. And my personal opinion is it's something that he should be proud of, especially in the Middle East, that doesn't have democracies. But instead, he used that as a scare tactic. So it's a pretty brutal 48 hours from certain perspectives. 

In a piece published on the Atlantic's website, Goldberg elaborated on Netanyahu’s so-called “Southern Strategy” as used by Republican operative Lee Atwater: 

It is often said (by me, among others) that Netanyahu would do very well as a Republican candidate for governor or senator in America. In the past, I imagined him fitting in with the fiscally conservative, rhetorically responsible, socially tolerant, foreign-policy hawkish wing of the party. 

What I didn't fully understand was just how much of Lee Atwater he had in him. Atwater, you'll remember, was the South Carolina Republican operative who was one of the prime innovators of racial dog-whistling, an approach used by a good number of Republicans to instill fear in white voters.

Netanyahu, of course, wasn't dog-whistling here: He didn't refer, say, to "people in Israel's north who don't have Jewish interests at heart," or some other such variation (Paul Ryan's "urban" voter formulation from 2012 comes to mind). Instead, he screamed, 'The Arabs are coming!"

Of course, Mitchell never pushed back against Goldberg’s agument as she herself has been highly critical of the prime minister during her coverage of the Israeli elections.

During a Wednesday appearance on NBC's Today, Mitchell insisted that because Netanyahu dropped his support for a two-state solution “this also means that the relationship with President Obama is going to be more poisonous because on Election Day, Netanyahu appealed to his voters to come out, saying that the Arab-Israelis were coming out in droves.” 

See relevant transcript below. 

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports 

March 18, 2015

ANDREA MITCHELL: Jeff Goldberg, you've watched Netanyahu over many, many years. What he did in the last 48 hours was really pretty telling. 

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Yeah, it was fairly breathtaking. I mean it's the most dramatic aspect of this election in a kind of way. The results are not actually that dramatic. He basically won by cannibalizing voters from the other right-wing parties, people who had been Likud voters and had come home. In other words, he didn't expand the right-wing camp necessarily, but what he did was he kind of took a mask off, if you will. The most consequential thing, obviously, is to basically say no Palestinian state. I don't see any conditions in which a Palestinian state will be formed, which of course goes against the wishes of many Israelis, obviously, and also Europe and the Obama administration.

Of course, and of course the Palestinian authority. The other thing he did, which you just mentioned, is that he played -- I just posted this on The Atlantic magazine website. He kind of played the Israeli version of the Southern Strategy and basically tried to scare his base into coming out and giving their votes to him by saying essentially the Arabs are coming. Now Arabs in Israel vote, they're full citizens and they have a right to vote. And my personal opinion is it's something that he should be proud of, especially in the Middle East, that doesn't have democracies. But instead, he used that as a scare tactic. So it's a pretty brutal 48 hours from certain perspectives. 

NBDaily Foreign Policy Iran Israel/Palestine MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Jeffrey Goldberg Andrea Mitchell Benjamin Netanyahu

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