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Documentary about US-Israel relations contained distortions, half-truths and at least one lie

By Missing Peace
Kerry and Netanyahu during press conferenceKerry and Netanyahu during press conference

A controversy erupted in Israel about a two-hour-long PBS Frontline documentary titled Netanyahu At War that was aired in the U.S. on Tuesday and will be aired again later this week.

The documentary covers more than twenty years of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s career and focuses on the question why relations between Israel and the United States became so sour in recent years.

Most media attention in Israel went to remarks made by former Clinton and Obama official Martin Indyk, who claimed Netanyahu had told him during former Israeli Prime Minister Rabin’s funeral that   “he (Netanyahu) was sorry Rabin was murdered because his untimely death meant he would go down in history as a hero.”

“Netanyahu sat next to me when I was ambassador in Israel at the time of Rabin’s funeral. I remember Netanyahu saying to me: ‘Look, look at this. He’s a hero now, but if he had not been assassinated, I would have beaten him in the elections, and then he would have gone into history as a failed politician,’” Indyk told his interviewer in the documentary.

Watch the documentary here.

“I think even at that moment of tremendous support, a tragic moment of support for Rabin, Netanyahu was thinking, well, politically he was on the ropes before he was assassinated. He exploited that and ran against Oslo in the (1996) elections and beat (Shimon) Peres, but he only beat him by something like a half of 1%,” Indyk added.

The news about Indyk’s accusation led to an unusually sharp reaction by the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. PMO issued a statement in which it denied Indyk’s allegations and said they were ‘utterly fabricated’. Several Israeli media outlets and blogs revealed later details that seemed to give evidence to PMO’s claim that Indyk had lied.

Israel National News published a screenshot taken from footage of Rabin’s funeral that showed Netanyahu sitting nowhere next to Indyk. Indyk shot back after the publication of the screenshot and claimed he had been talking about a ceremony in the Knesset prior to the funeral. Israeli pundits, however, quickly pointed out that only Rabin’s family was seated during that ceremony. Foreign dignitaries weren’t seated but came and went to pay their respects.

Other evidence that Indyk had fabricated the remarks of Netanyahu was delivered by the website Israellycool. Blogger Aussie Dave, citing a Wiki Leaks cable, published what Indyk had said about Netanyahu’s statements on the very same day he had heard them from the then Israeli opposition leader (November 5, 1995).

“The assassination of Rabin is a disaster for the Jewish people, a disaster for Israel and a disaster for the right which will be decimated if elections are called soon,” Netanyahu had told Indyk on November 5, 1995.

Indyk has made critical statements about Netanyahu and Israel ever since the Israeli Prime Minister addressed Congress about the impending nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran, but Israellycool thinks there is another reason for Indyk’s attitudes toward Israel and its Prime Minister.

“Martin Indyk, the man who ran John Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, whose failure, in turn, set off this summer’s bloody Gaza War, cashed a $14.8 million check from Qatar. Yes, you heard that right: In his capacity as vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the prestigious Brookings Institution, Martin Indyk took an enormous sum of money from a foreign government that, in addition to its well-documented role as a funder of Sunni terror outfits throughout the Middle East, is the main patron of Hamas—which happens to be the mortal enemy of both the State of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party,” Aussie Dave wrote.

Indyk’s lie was not the only problem that made the “Frontline” documentary biased. There were many other distortions, omissions and inaccuracies in the movie about Netanyahu and the reasons for the sour relations with the Obama administration.

For example, the documentary suggested that the massive protests against the Rabin government and the Oslo Accords prior to the assassination of the Israeli PM were pure rightwing politics. In reality, Israeli protesters took the streets after Hamas started to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets immediately after the signing of the Oslo accords. The documentary suggested that those attacks started only after Rabin’s assassination.

A second distortion was the way the documentary discussed the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000. This was presented as a spontaneous outbreak of violence caused by Palestinian frustration about the failure of the negotiations about a permanent peace accord at Camp David in July 2000.

In reality, Arafat planned the outbreak of the war at Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) as soon as he returned from Camp David. His widow Suha has confirmed Arafat’s planning of the war in interviews on televisions.

When discussing the deterioration in the relations between Israel and the U.S. under Obama, the ‘Frontpage’ documentary omitted that in 2009 Netanyahu gave in to Obama’s demand that Israel freezes settlement activity in the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The Israeli government froze new building activity in the Jewish villages in the area for ten months to get the Palestinians back to the negotiation table. By the time the moratorium on the building in Judea and Samaria expired, Palestinian groups again resorted to the use of violence to torpedo the negotiations that had just started. In reaction to the renewed violence and the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Israeli government decided not to extend the moratorium.

For Obama, however, the Palestinian obstruction was not relevant for the way he dealt with Israel. He continued to demand concessions from Israel while giving the Palestinians a free pass. Ahead of the next meeting he had with Netanyahu, he demanded that Israel accepted the Palestinian demand for a full withdrawal to the indefensible pre-1967 armistice lines (he called them borders) albeit with mutual land swaps.

The documentary dealt extensively with Obama’s attitudes toward Israel but by omitting and distorting essential facts a picture emerged that it was indeed Netanyahu who was at war with the U.S. administration.

In reality, however, it was  Obama who went to war with its only real ally in the Middle East from the moment he was inaugurated as President of The United States. This war continues till today as became clear last week when the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama administration continued to spy on the Israeli Prime Minister even after the President apologized to US allies after former NSA contractor revealed the spy scandal in 2014. The Obama administration even spied on members of Congress who visited Netanyahu to discuss the emerging nuclear deal with Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported.