During a discussion on the indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the panel on Sunday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS repeatedly compared Netanyahu to President Trump. The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman praised members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party for turning their backs on the Prime Minister while complaining that the “sick” Republican Party has not done the same thing to Trump.
After accusing Netanyahu of “running an openly racist campaign against Israeli Arabs” and “putting toxins into the veins of the society,” Friedman talked about “one big difference between Israel and America,” specifically, the reactions of the two majority parties to the allegations facing the leaders of their respective countries.
He then favorably contrasted the reaction of Netanyahu’s Likud Party to his alleged wrongdoing in the form of “demands for a primary...to run against Netanyahu” with the reaction of the Republican Party to Trump’s alleged wrongdoing.
According to Friedman, “Likud ministers, at least a few of them, seem to have a little more spine, self-respect, and integrity than the entire Republican caucus...in the House and the Senate where, other than one exception, basically are not ready to challenge Trump.” In spite of his disgust with the GOP, Friedman seemed optimistic that a portion of the Likud Party turning on Netanyahu “might be a warning sign to Trump.”
For his part, host Fareed Zakaria reminisced about the “good old days” by asking Friedman “why is the Republican Party so bereft of the Howard Bakers,” in reference to the then-Republican Senator from Tennessee who coined the phrase “what did the President know and when did he know it?”
Friedman replied by attacking the “ecosystem of Fox News” and expressed hope that “just one (congressional Republican), maybe if I really dream, just two might actually say you know what? I’m going to stand up for truth and the right thing here.”
Friedman also claimed that “the fact that you don’t” have congressional Republicans lining up to impeach President Trump “really says to me that our conservative party is sick...and that’s why you’re not going to persuade these people, you’re not going to change these people. You can only defeat these people.”
While Friedman’s Trump Derangement Syndrome caused him to offer the most hyperbolic and partisan analysis of the panel, the other panelists all too happily recycled left-wing talking points.
Panelist Anne-Marie Slaughter accused Trump of “playing a political strategy” to fight back against the impeachment probe while “the Democrats are trying to uphold the law.” Perhaps it never occurred to Slaughter that the Democrats are also “playing a political strategy” on impeachment.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS
10:24 a.m. Eastern
FAREED ZAKARIA: Bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Those are the charges announced on Thursday that have been leveled against Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister in return said he was the victim of a witch hunt and called on Israel to investigate the investigators. Sounds familiar? Let me bring in the panel; Ian Bremmer, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Tom Friedman. Anne-Marie, what…do you think there are parallels between Netanyahu and Trump?
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: It’s remarkable just how parallel it is. In the first place, bribery, fraud, these are…these are like the articles of impeachment but equally, the tactics. Right? You know, deny, attack, pretend you’re the victim, say it’s a witch hunt. But even more, there’s this choice in both places between going the legal route or the political route. So effectively, Netanyahu’s best hope is to actually get a…a resolution through the Knesset that will…will maintain his immunity while he’s Prime Minister. The people against him are thinking about going through the courts. And similarly here, Trump is playing a political strategy and the Democrats are trying to uphold the law.
ZAKARIA: You know, Tom, it seems to me that the…the defenses at core are the same as the Trump…Trump defense, which is an attack on elites, an attack on the establishment saying, you know, these guys have always hated me and they found some maneuver with their fancy-pant lawyers and…and, and media allies to bring me down. Is…will it…you know, in Trump’s case, it does seem to be working. Right? The, the, the, the hatred of the establishment is greater than the concern about corruption.
TOM FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, Fareed, you allude to it. I believe Israeli politics is to sort of the wider trends in the world, Israeli- Palestinian politics, what off-Broadway is to Broadway. So, I follow it very closely. And if you look there, I think Trump should be a little concerned. One, Netanyahu ran an openly racist campaign against Israeli Arabs and what happened? They all turned out and voted the next time and created the third-largest party in Israel. Netanyahu was all over Twitter and Facebook. His opponent Benny Gantz was not. It turns out Israelis got sick of it. And at the same time, Benny Gantz was really not just an opponent to…to Netanyahu. He was actually an antidote in the eyes of a lot of Israelis. They understood that Netanyahu and his politics were putting toxins into the veins of the society. And…and, and I think if I were Trump, I’d pay attention to that because, you know, there’s one big difference between Israel and America now, Fareed. And that’s that you see now in the Likud demands for a primary happening this morning to run against Netanyahu. You see Likud ministers not defending Trump. It turns out Likud ministers, at least a few of them, seem to have a little more spine, self-respect, and integrity than the entire Republican caucus, you know, in the House and the Senate where, other than one ex…exception, basically are not ready to challenge Trump. So that may be a diversion in Israel, but that itself might be a warning sign to Trump as well.
ZAKARIA: Ian, do you think that…you know, as long as Benjamin Netanyahu’s Prime Minister, he can’t be indicted? Even if he were to go into a coalition government and become Deputy Prime Minister, he can be indicted so, his incentive is to string this out as long as he can, maybe have a third election. Can he…can he, you know, if that happens, could he somehow overcome all these problems?
IAN BREMMER: Look, I mean, he’s holding on by his fingernails, but it turns out he has really long fingernails, right? I mean, we’re potentially heading into a third election here and they’re even talking about a potential where there’d be a unity coalition where Gantz and Netanyahu would switch off. But that would give Netanyahu another year. I mean, he’s playing kick the can. I mean, this is a day-by-day scenario for him. But while it’s happening, let’s keep in mind that Gantz actually has the same policies on things that matter to the United States, the region and the world, as Netanyahu does. So, at some point, he’s going to be gone and at some point, that indictment is going to stick in my view. But Israel’s governance isn’t going to change one iota. And from…from a regional perspective, actually, that’s probably more important.
ZAKARIA: Very quickly, do you think that the American recognition of Israeli settlements or the recognition of the Golan Heights, does all this…has this helped Netanyahu? Because Trump is doing all of this as favors to Bibi hoping to get him, you know, more votes.
SLAUGHTER: I think, actually, he’s…it doesn’t make a difference at this point. It is so clear that he is 100 percent behind Netanyahu that that…I can’t see that the additional recognition of these things would make a difference in…for, to the Israeli public. What it is doing, though, is announcing to the rest of the world that we…that the United States will have no role going forward in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian negotiation because we have now taken a position that says we are completely, firmly on the hard-right Israeli side.
ZAKARIA: Tom, let me ask you to…final thoughts on, you know, you mentioned the Republican Party just, you know, completely AWOL on this, on this impeachment issue. That’s seen…is that a response to where they see their voters? You know, how should we think about this in terms of why is the Republican Party so bereft of the Howard Bakers, the…you know, people who are saying look, this is a real problem?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you have an entire ecosystem of Fox News basically constantly arousing the base; sometimes with real news, sometimes with fake news. That, then, creates a disciplining force that Trump can activate to use against Republican legislators. That said, though, Fareed, you’d think that, my God, just one. Maybe if I really dream just two, might actually say, you know what, I’m going to stand up for truth and the right thing here. And our enlisting a foreign leader to intervene in our elections and affecting, using American aid appropriated by the Congress as a bribe, that’s just not on…you’d think you’d find just one or two. And the fact that you don’t really says to me that our conservative party is sick here, Fareed. And that’s why you’re not going to persuade these people. You’re not going to change these people. You can only defeat these people. And it seems to me, defeating this version of the Republican Party is the necessary but not sufficient thing to produce what the country needs, which is a healthy conservative movement that can balance the liberal movement and give us the right kind of governance we need. Right now, we have a sick, I would say, conservative movement in this country and that is not good for our future.