Wikileaks: Former Bill Clinton Aide Accused Netanyahu of Racism in 2015 Run for Prime Minister
JNS.org – A longtime senior aide to Bill Clinton told John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, that Benjamin Netanyahu employed racism in his 2015 race for prime minister.
According to one of the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, former Bill Clinton aide Paul Begala made the accusation in a March 18, 2015 email. Begala serves as an adviser to the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action.
In early 2015, Begala and Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, flew to Israel to assist Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog in his race against Netanyahu. At the time, critics accused Obama of trying to help Herzog unseat Netanyahu.
In the leaked email, Begala explained to Podesta how Netanyahu managed to win, when most polls predicted he would lose. Netanyahu used “racist appeals” to voters, especially via “robo-calls [to Israeli voters] calling the president ‘Hussein Obama, the Muslim,'” Begala wrote to Podesta. “Bibi did not win because of Iran. He won because of race.”
Begala did not respond to a request for comment by JNS.org.
The “robo-call” accusations date back to a March 15, 2015 Jerusalem Post article. In that piece, Post correspondent Niv Elis reported receiving an anonymous phone call urging him to vote for the Likud from someone who referred to the president as “Hussein Obama.”
Begala appears to have embellished Elis’ report, by telling Podesta three days later that the caller referred to Obama as “the Muslim” — language that never appear in the Post article.
Elis confirmed to JNS.org that the caller did not characterize Obama as a Muslim, and that Begala never contacted him to discuss the matter.
Elis also reported that it was “unclear” if the call was actually authorized by Likud.
Professor Gil Troy of McGill University, author of several books concerning the Clintons, told JNS.org that he’s concerned the Begala-Podesta emails indicate some advisors in Hillary Clinton’s inner circle are trying to influence her against Netanyahu. “There is a whole gang of anti-Netanyahu types and stuck-in-the-1990s-Olso peace processors, who never figured out why Oslo failed, never acknowledged their mistaken assumptions, never fully dealt with Palestinian rejectionism and violence, and are anxious to bully Bibi and Israel right back to the same flawed process,” Troy said.
Begala confided to Podesta that he was “deeply depressed” over the defeat suffered by Herzog, whom he referred to by his nickname, “Buji.”
Spokesmen for both Netanyahu and Herzog did not respond to requests about the email.
At the time, other Netanyahu critics complained about a different Election Day controversy involving Arabs: a video advertisement in which the prime minister expressed concern that “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves,” in buses provided by some left-wing parties.
Netanyahu subsequently apologized “for how my comment was misunderstood,” saying his intention was not to refer to Arab voters per se, but rather to voters who were backing the main Arab party in the race. That party, known as the Joint List, won an unprecedented 13 seats, making it the third-largest bloc in the Knesset.
Troy added that while Netanyahu’s statement about Arab voters was “boorish,” it had no impact on the overall outcome of the race, as it only attracted some “votes from the far-Right” back to the Likud. According to Troy, Begala and like-minded colleagues “cannot imagine that any sane person would see the Middle East differently than they do, cannot imagine why a sentient citizen would vote for Bibi, and so they had to chalk it up to racism.”