CBS: Israeli ‘Hardliner’ Netanyahu is ‘Hitch’ to Pro-Obama Livni Being Prime Minister

On Tuesday’s CBS Evening News, even after Katie Couric introduced a story about Israel’s election which will determine the next prime minister as being "too close to call," correspondent Richard Roth’s report spent more time focusing on the popularity of center-left Kadima party candidate Tzipi Livni – whom the report linked to Barack Obama – and featured positive soundbites of her supporters, but devoted little time to her conservative Likud party rival and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Roth briefly presented as a "hitch" to Livni becoming Israel's leader.

In her introduction, Couric labeled Netanyahu as a "hardline" candidate: "In Israel they're counting votes in an election that remains too close to call. Late tonight, hardline candidate Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory, but exit polls show Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in front. Despite that, Richard Roth tells us the process of choosing a new prime minister is far from over."

Roth began by relating that Livni "faces a huge political hurdle" and then gave a positive presentation of her "hope and change" candidacy, including soundbites of Israeli citizens expressing admiration for her.

RICHARD ROTH: A lawyer and former Mossad agent, Livni took a tough line during Israel's offensive in Gaza, then peppered campaign speeches with hope and change. She defied Israel's macho and military tradition in politics and voters liked it.

TAMIR LAZAROV, ISRAELI VOTER: I thought it was the best option that we have right now, so-

REUT GAN, ISRAELI VOTER: And she's a woman.

LAZAROV: Yeah, she's a woman. That's a bonus.

ANAT FELZENWALBE, ISRAELI VOTER: She hasn't failed yet and she's a woman. She deserves a chance. And women are better listeners. They don't work from the ego.

After relaying Livni’s promise to work with the Obama administration toward Middle East peace, Roth presented Netanyahu as an obstacle to Livni’s election, and did not include soundbites of the conservative candidate’s supporters. Roth:

The hitch is, in Israel's fragmented parliamentary politics, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still her rival for the job. With fewer votes but a bigger block of potential right-wing allies, Netanyahu also claimed victory, insisting he'll be able to form a coalition government and become Israel's next prime minister. Even at Livni's happy headquarters here, they know that's not just empty rhetoric, and political wrangling now will decide who really won.

On the next morning's The Early Show, as previously documented by NewsBuster Kyle Drennen, Roth fretted that a Netanyahu win would be a "setback" for Obama: "And that could be a setback for the White House, eager to restart a peace process in the Middle East."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Tuesday, February 10, CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: In Israel they're counting votes in an election that remains too close to call. Late tonight, hardline candidate Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory, but exit polls show Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in front. Despite that, Richard Roth tells us the process of choosing a new prime minister is far from over.

RICHARD ROTH: Her election night headquarters erupted in cheers, but Tzipi Livni faces a huge political hurdle to becoming prime minister, even if the vote count confirms exit poll predictions. A lawyer and former Mossad agent, Livni took a tough line during Israel's offensive in Gaza, then peppered campaign speeches with hope and change. She defied Israel's macho and military tradition in politics and voters liked it.

REUT GAN, ISRAELI VOTER: I thought it was the best option that we have right now, so-

TAMIR LAZAROV, ISRAELI VOTER: And she's a woman.

GAN: Yeah, she's a woman. That's a bonus.

ANAT FELZENWALBE, ISRAELI VOTER: She hasn't failed yet and she's a woman. She deserves a chance. And women are better listeners. They don't work from the ego.

ROTH: Livni's been Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians and says as prime minister she'd work with the Obama administration to try to reach a peace deal. The hitch is, in Israel's fragmented parliamentary politics, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still her rival for the job. With fewer votes but a bigger block of potential right wing allies, Netanyahu also claimed victory, insisting he'll be able to form a coalition government and become Israel's next prime minister. Even at Livni's happy headquarters here, they know that's not just empty rhetoric, and political wrangling now will decide who really won. Richard Roth, CBS News, Tel Aviv.