American political strategist Paul Begala told Hillary Clinton’s team that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the March 2015 elections in Israel because of his unabashed racist appeals, according to an email he sent to the Democratic candidate’s campaign manager John Podesta and which was released by WikiLeaks on Thursday.
Begala, who was chief strategist of former president Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, was asked by Podesta for his take on Netanyahu’s last-minute surge to win the elections. Begala advised Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog in his unsuccessful bid to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.
“I have never seen anything like Bibi’s furious surge to the right in the last 4 days. Nothing like it in America,” Begala wrote in an email the day after the election, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
“Bibi did not win because of Iran. He won because of race.”
Netanyahu drew serious criticism for his call to members of his Likud party on Election Day to go out and vote because “Arabs in droves” were heading to the polls.
The prime minister made the comments on the afternoon of March 17, when voter turnout was still quite low. Filmed sitting in an office with a map of the Middle East behind him, Netanyahu said: “Arabs are going to the ballot boxes in droves, they are being bused in by left-wing NGOs.”
The comments immediately drew fire, with Netanyahu’s opponents saying he was inciting to racism against Israeli citizens exercising their democratic right to vote.
Netanyahu later apologized for the remarks, saying they were “misunderstood.”
Begala also noted Netanyahu’s “robo-calls calling the President ‘Hussein Obama, the Muslim’.”
“In the US you could never get away with those kind of racist appeals. But, man, did it work,” Begala wrote in the email dated March 18, 2015.
Ironically, since then, Clinton’s presidential opponent Donald Trump has been accused of using similar racist, xenophobic rhetoric in a bid to drum up support.
WikiLeaks began divulging the Podesta emails last week, and has been releasing a steady stream of messages from his hacked account on an almost daily basis. They mark an unprecedented effort by the group to inject itself into this year’s presidential campaign.
US officials have said WikiLeaks is working with Russian operatives to undermine Clinton’s candidacy and boost her opponent Donald Trump. So far the group has unveiled 11,000 hacked emails and purports to release 50,000 more before the November 8 election.
The Clinton campaign has neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of these emails.