MSNBC Denounces Netanyahu as a 'Panicking' 'Racist'

Reporting live from Tel Aviv and campaigning hard against the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her MSNBC show on Tuesday, host Andrea Mitchell invited on one guest after another to denounce the Likud party leader.

Turning to New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, Mitchell declared of Netanyahu: "He's clearly fearing that this center-left coalition and the prominence of, for the first time, a united Arab voting policy, Arab-Israelis who can vote, might make a difference."

Rudoren replied: "This morning he posted on his Facebook a video saying that Arabs were flocking to the polls and he called on right-wing supporters to come out and block them. And the left came and said that that was a racist remark, sort of comparing it to suppressing African-American votes in the United States. So it's been a very provocative and ugly last few days..."

Moments later, Mitchell spoke to former Congresswoman and president of the liberal Wilson Center Jane Harman:

Let's talk about what Netanyahu has done in the last forty-eight hours, which is to reverse decades and decades of U.S./Israeli policy, which is negotiations towards a two-state solution. A Palestinian homeland and of course Israel. And by reversing that, if he sticks – let's say he wins – and he sticks with his commitments of the last forty-eight hours, there'll be hell to pay.

Harman said of the Jewish leader: "I would call it a Hail Mary pass."

In a separate segment later on the program, Mitchell brought on former Israeli General Danny Yatom and touted his opposition to Netanayhu: "You are one of more than a hundred retired generals who came out against Netanyahu because you don't think that his positions are good for security....You just said to me he's panicking."

Yatom argued: "Yes, it looks to me that he feels as if the polls that were published until two days ago are real, realistic, and that he's going to lose....So it looks as if I don't have any other explanation but to say that probably he's caught in panic."

Mitchell then teed up James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute: "I know that you've been a long proponent of having a two-state solution....What is going to be the reaction in the Palestinian community – let's say that Netanyahu is elected or is in part of a unity government, a coalition government – to the end of any hope of having their own state?"

Zogby ranted:

In the animal kingdom there's nothing more dangerous than a panicked politician and Netanyahu is panicking. And so he's scaring people about foreign conspiracies, about security threats, and about the Arabs. And if you take his words about the Arab vote and translate it into American politics and call it "the black vote," you see how racist this is. And it's – it's, I think, a very difficult problem right now for Israel is to deal with this bigotry towards the Arab population, which is just 20% of the country.

Here are excerpts of the March 17 Andrea Mitchell Reports coverage of the Israeli election:

12:02 PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Joining me now is Jodi Rudoren, who is the bureau chief here for The New York Times. Jodi, Netanyahu, in fact at this very moment is about to make a statement, but the elections judge has said he cannot do it live because it is election day. So it will have to be taken back and edited and we'll have to see what he's saying at his house right now in Jerusalem. But he's clearly fearing that this center-left coalition and the prominence of, for the first time, a united Arab voting policy, Arab-Israelis who can vote, might make a difference.

JODI RUDOREN: Right, and he's been out there the last few days on just a huge campaign blitz, interviewing everywhere and saying really controversial things. This morning he posted on his Facebook a video saying that Arabs were flocking to the polls and he called on right-wing supporters to come out and block them. And the left came and said that that was a racist remark, sort of comparing it to suppressing African-American votes in the United States. So it's been a very provocative and ugly last few days as he tries to catch up to the so-called Zionist Union and the Zionist Union tries to build on its momentum to expand its lead.

(...)

MITCHELL: I want to bring in, back in Washington at the Wilson Center, the president of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman. Of course a former member of Congress a former member of the Intelligence Committee, and as savvy as anyone on the Middle East and Netanyahu. Jane, thanks for joining us.

Let's talk about what Netanyahu has done in the last forty-eight hours, which is to reverse decades and decades of U.S./Israeli policy, which is negotiations towards a two-state solution. A Palestinian homeland and of course Israel. And by reversing that, if he sticks – let's say he wins –  and he sticks with his commitments of the last forty-eight hours, there'll be hell to pay....

JANE HARMAN: On this point, I would call it a Hail Mary pass.

(...)

MITCHELL: What is going to be the reaction in America, Jane? Because you've got a U.S. Congress dominated of course now, led by the Republicans. They insisted on going along and bringing him, Netanyahu, to Congress. He thought he'd get a bump back home from that, but in fact it didn't help him politically. And instead what we see is a Republican congressional leadership absolutely wedded – with the help of a lot of Democrats, I should point out as well – wedded to Netanyahu and to his policies.

(...)

12:33 PM ET

PETER ALEXANDER: Less than four hours until the polls close in Israel, in what is a heated and potentially defining election. These pictures just coming in from moments ago, that is the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making some remarks. Because votes have not yet fully been cast in that country, they must be delivered on tape, you can't speak live. But as the translation is telling us right now, he's spoken about the need to go out. That there is still time for folks to vote in that country, urging people to participate in the democratic process.

And Andrea Mitchell, my colleague, is joining us live from Tel Aviv right now with the latest. You know this has really been a historic series of events, Andrea. The remarks from Netanyahu just yesterday saying that he would say no to a Palestinian state and even now with votes still going on, still trying to sway the vote across that country.

MITCHELL: Well, in fact, a judge here stopped this from being broadcast live because it's election day. Traditionally, candidates do not speak in Israel, in the United States as well, on election day. So the judge ruled that this could not be a live transmission to you all of what he was saying, so that's why we're playing back the top of what he said. With what you said is exactly accurate, Peter, he was telling people there's still time, that there's foreign money going in and trying to sway the votes, that "The Arab coalition is trying to push me out and even push me into jail." I mean, he was really ringing all of the alarm bells to try to get his Likud base, his political party, out.

And with me here in Tel Aviv is General – retired General Danny Yatom, who is a former head of Mossad, the spy agency here, a general who was in government for a long time. And joining us in Washington is James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute.

And first to you, General. You are one of more than a hundred retired generals who came out against Netanyahu because you don't think that his positions are good for security. This comment just now and what he's been saying for the last couple of days, Jane Harman of the Wilson Institute was just on earlier in the hour with us and she called it what we would say in American football, "a Hail Mary pass." You just said to me he's panicking.

DANNY YATOM: Yes, it looks to me that he feels as if the polls that were published until two days ago are real, realistic, and that he's going to lose....So it looks as if I don't have any other explanation but to say that probably he's caught in panic.

MITCHELL: James Zogby, you've seen a lot of elections here and I know that you've been a long proponent of having a two-state solution, of having a Palestinian state, the negotiations that first were led by John Kerry and Martin Indyk and collapsed. What is going to be the reaction in the Palestinian community – let's say that Netanyahu is elected or is in part of a unity government, a coalition government – to the end of any hope of having their own state?

ZOGBY: I don't think you'll see a unity government. Let me just say a comment about the General's remarks, I think he was spot on. In the animal kingdom there's nothing more dangerous than a panicked politician and Netanyahu is panicking. And so he's scaring people about foreign conspiracies, about security threats, and about the Arabs. And if you take his words about the Arab vote and translate it into American politics and call it "the black vote," you see how racist this is. And it's – it's, I think, a very difficult problem right now for Israel is to deal with this bigotry towards the Arab population, which is just 20% of the country.

(...)

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