Despite early election predictions in Israel late Tuesday ranging from a split vote to a slim victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews showed his disdain for both Netanyahu and President Trump, suggesting the President’s policy moves (directly and indirectly) related to the Middle East were solely to exercise improper influence on the election.
Of course, Matthews forgot to mention the Obama administration’s dislike of Netanyahu and the role an Obama adviser and U.S. tax dollars played in (unsuccessfully) working to defeat him in 2015.
“[A]head of today's election in Israel, President Trump went out of his way to politically boost his friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, making some stunning policy shifts that could have far-reaching ramifications for our country,” complained Matthews in one of two teases for a seven-minute segment of nonsense.
Before introducing Bloomberg’s Shannon Pettypiece and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, Matthews stated that “historically....American presidents have abstained in getting involved in Israeli politics, opting instead to play the roles of — two roles — friend of Israel, but also regional honest broker,” but Trump “broke with predecessors...to ensure that his friend...was victorious today.”
And what did Matthews have in mind? Here was part of his drivel (click “expand”):
Since the 2016 election, the President has proved the American embassy to Jerusalem, withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and just days before the election, he designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization. Trump even invited the to the White House, two weeks before the election. There they are, posing for the photo op in the Oval Office. President Trump has forged no deeper political bond than the one he has with Benjamin Netanyahu and right now, it’s unclear if Trump’s push to get him reelected has paid off.... [A]lways, our president from Eisenhower — from all the way up to W....they’ve always played this other role as honest broker in the region so they can bring peace and play a bigger global role than just being buddies with Israel. This President has ignored his global role, ignored the role — forfeited that of peace maker or honest broker and just played political sidekick of Bibi.
Ah, so withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal was just to curry favor with the Israelis? Okay, sure, Chris.
To Pettypiece’s credit, she noted the Obama administration’s “chilly relationship” as a whole, but then agreed with Matthews about Trump putting his thumb on the scales.
As for Robinson, he observed that “Netanyahu knows how to play Trump like a violin” by “giv[ing] him the flattering, the undulation, and the — that he thinks he ought to get everywhere.”
“[T]his will turn out to be one of the most consequential legacies, I think, of the Trump administration. He’s squeezing all kinds of toothpaste out of the tube and I don't know if it can be put back in,” Robinson added.
Matthews then wondered if a Netanyahu loss would be a foreshadowing to Trump’s own demise in 2020 and, like earlier, Pettypiece agreed that “we could look, you know, four years from now and say this was the beginning of the end of that wave of Trumpian nationalist candidates.”
The MSNBC host also asked Robinson about Trump’s remarks over the weekend to the Republican Jewish Coalition that Netanyahu was “your prime minister” and Robinson responded by invoking Ilhan Omar: “You know, if you had a Democrat or Progressive said that — you know, — if Ilhan Omar had said that, it would have been — you know — screaming headlines on Fox News.”
Back on March 17, 2015, my colleague Scott Whitlock wrote that a lead ground game official in both Obama presidential campaigns was working with the Labor Party to defeat Netanyahu. Further, ABC chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl admitted that the Obama administration was hoping for a loss (even if they wouldn’t “say so out loud”).
And over a year later in July 2016, a report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that a non-governmental organization with ties to Obama used taxpayer funds to oust Netanyahu.
Don’t believe NewsBusters? Well, let’s allow the despicably false and smarmy Jennifer Rubin give you the lowdown here.
To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on April 9, click “expand.”
April 9, 2019
7:15 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Plus ahead of today's election in Israel, President Trump went out of his way to politically boost his friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, making some stunning policy shifts that could have far-reaching ramifications for our country. We’ve got the latest on that very close tonight over in Israel and whether Trump's efforts paid off for his bud.
7:33 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]
MATTHEWS: Coming up, voters in Israel headed to the polls today to choose their new — well — next prime minister, maybe a new one. We’re going to take a look at the unprecedented ways in which our President worked behind the scenes and in front of the scenes to help push the election of his chosen candidate.
7:37 p.m. Eastern
MATTHEWS: Today, Israel held one of its most consequential elections in decades and as of now, it’s not quite clear who’s the winner. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scandal-plagued and facing indictment on fraud and corruption charges faces centrist candidate Benny Gantz. Both candidates remain locked in a neck and neck race. Right now, of course, they’re six hours ahead of us right now. They’re basically midnight over there, late past midnight. We may have to wait for tomorrow, but historically this is the point tonight that American presidents have abstained in getting involved in Israeli politics, opting instead to play the roles of — two roles — friend of Israel, but also regional honest broker. Not this time. President Trump broke with predecessors taking a number of steps to ensure that his friend, Bibi Netanyahu, was victorious today. Since the 2016 election, the President has proved the American embassy to Jerusalem, withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and just days before the election, he designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization. Trump even invited the to the White House, two weeks before the election. There they are, posing for the photo op in the Oval Office. President Trump has forged no deeper political bond than the one he has with Benjamin Netanyahu and right now, it’s unclear if Trump’s push to get him reelected has paid off. For more, I’m joined by Eugene Robinson, columnist at The Washington Post. Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter at Bloomberg. Shannon, this election — I’ve been following the Middle East like every grown-up American who lives in this country. We all follow Middle East negotiations and politics and always, our president from Eisenhower — from all the way up to W., although some leaned toward Israel more, some leaned against it a little big, the government, they’ve always played this other role as honest broker in the region so they can bring peace and play a bigger global role than just being buddies with Israel. This President has ignored his global role, ignored the role — forfeited that of peace maker or honest broker and just played political sidekick of Bibi.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean, yeah and different presidents have had different levels of honest broker they played. Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu when he came to visit once before the election saying it was too close to the election. Of course, those two had quite a chilly relationship and President Trump did not come out and endorse Netanyahu which would have been a sort of diplomatic no-no, but as you pointed out, there has been no hesitation about his enthusiasm and the timing some of these moves. The Golan Heights, the Revolutionary Guard, so clearly linked to the election. I think it kind of speaks to, one, sort of relationship that the president has with Netanyahu, the relationship that Jared Kushner has with Netanyahu — their two families go back a long time. They’ve been friends for years and years and how much of the Mideast peace plan is riding on Netanyahu getting elected because he is really someone they formed an alliance with. If Netanyahu is not there, this peace plan they’ve been working on falls apart to any extent that there is a peace plan at this point.
MATTHEWS: Let me go right to the jugular. How much of this is Trump's connection with American evangelicals?
EUGENE ROBINSON: I think that plays a role. Sure. I think it plays a role. It helps shore up his continuing support from the evangelicals and gives them a reason to forgive all the unevangelical things he does, un-Christian things he does, but also, let's not forget that Bibi Netanyahu knows how to play trump like a violin. I mean, he gives him the flattering, the undulation, and the — that he thinks he ought to get everywhere and Bibi gives it to him and gives it to him quite skillfully.
MATTHEWS: He’s like Churchill talking to Roosevelt.
ROBINSON: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: He talks about him like he’s our best friend and all this stuff.
ROBINSON: He knows how to play him. He plays him really well. You know, this — this will turn out to be one of the most consequential legacies, I think, of the Trump administration. He’s squeezing all kinds of toothpaste out of the tube and I don't know if it can be put back in.
MATTHEWS: Well, let’s talk politics here in American. For all of our listeners and viewers right now, Shannon, if Bibi goes down, is this an outpost — a political outpost of Trump falling the year before his reelection?
PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean —
MATTHEWS: A sign of weakness.
PETTYPIECE: — it's hard to tell how much the Israeli populous can reflect the U.S., but yeah, Netanyahu reflects this similar style of Trump. They’re both these take no prisoners political fighters. They, you know, get backed by the sense of nationalism. They sort of eschew and shrug sort of political norms and political correctness. So, in a lot ways, I think that speaks to the bond and the relationship that these two have developed and in a lot of ways they have the same style. Right. As we sort of saw this wave of Trumpian candidates around the world come up, we may be — who knows — we could look, you know, four years from now and say this was the beginning of the end of that wave of Trumpian nationalist candidates.
MATTHEWS: Well, this past weekend, President Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition, which consists of American voters, that he has supported their prime minister, Netanyahu. Let’s watch. He called him their —
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I stood with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu. How is the race going, by the way? How is it? Who is going to win the race? Tell me, I don't know. Well, it's going to be close. I think it's going to be close. Two good people. Two good people. But I stood with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
MATTHEWS: So people have jumped on that term, your.
MATTHEWS: You know, because they’re Americans he’s talking — I don’t know. That’s — I'm not sure that —
ROBINSON: Well, they are Americans.
ROBINSON: You know, if you had a Democrat or Progressive said that — you know, — if Ilhan Omar had said that —
MATTHEWS: I — I know.
ROBINSON: — it would have been — you know —
MATTHEWS: Shocking, I get it. I get it.
ROBINSON: — screaming headlines on Fox News.
MATTHEWS: But the United States has a policy. It’s bipartisan for years now since Oslo that we want to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people. They’re people too. Just like the Jewish people. In fact, you’ve a lot of Arabs living in Israel. Almost all Arabs living in the West Bank and they want to have a country and that’s been our policy. You’re going to get a country of your own.
ROBINSON: That’s not our policy.
MATTHEWS: We’re going to work this thing out.
ROBINSON: Well, that’s not our policy now.
MATTHEWS: Bibi’s not doing that.
ROBINSON: That’s not our policy now. No. Bibi — Bibi has foreclosed the possibility of a two-state solution because he's offering, you know —
ROBINSON: — yeah, he’s offering swiss cheese, basically, with a —
MATTHEWS: He's recognized all the existing settlements, all the outpost settlements are going to be a part of greater Israel.
ROBINSON: So, who can accept that? So — so, what happens when you default to a one-state solution? That's the question and that will be answered by future generations. It may not be answered until Bibi Netanyahu is, you know, dead and gone.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, the arithmetic suggests a one-state — one-state will be Arab mainly.
ROBINSON: Well, it’s — the arithmetic is relentless and so, he is setting the stage in a one-state solution and we will find out what that looked like.
MATTHEWS: You know, I was over in Israel in the early 70s and I spent a month over there in the Old City and I have to tell you. That issue of can Israel be a democracy and can it be a Jewish state is always conflicted by the huge numbers of Arabs if you annex all of these — Shannon, that conundrum sits in the face of every Israeli voter right now. It still does and people who support them here. How do you have a democracy if you include so many majority people, at some point, if you bring all in the West Bank? How do you do it?
PETTYPIECE: Right. Well that’s what makes the problem so difficult to solve and why we’re struggling with this over decades. You know, I think one of the issues that the President says he tried to do with moving the embassy to Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to some extent is take the contentious issues off the table and say, they’re settled. It's done. Now, let’s try and negotiate. That doesn't appear to be working so far.
PETTYPIECE: And I mean, our reporting from my colleagues in the Mideast kind of show this has been a big set back, especially this Golan Heights move, that you cannot get the Arab leaders to the table at this point. It’s really put them in a bad corner and so, as far as this Mideast peace plan goes, I think it’s difficult there.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, Shannon Pettypiece and thank you, Gene Robinson.