New Film on Operation Entebbe 'Likely to Anger Prime Minister Netanyahu'

Historian whose book is basis of screenplay says '7 Days in Entebbe' downgrades slain Yoni Netanyahu’s hero status

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From the trailer of the film "7 Days in Entebbe"
From the trailer of the film "7 Days in Entebbe"Credit: Screenshot from Focus Features' Youtube
Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman

The thriller “7 Days in Entebbe” will “draw the ire of one of the most prominent world leaders,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Hollywood Reporter predicted this week.

The British-American film’s maiden screening was slated to take place at the Berlin International Film Festival on Monday evening. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it is likely to upset Netanyahu because its version of the death of Yoni Netanyahu, the prime minister’s older brother, differs from the story the Netanyahu family has always told.

The film, starring Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl, depicts the 1976 hijacking of an Air France passenger plane from Tel Aviv to Paris and the Israeli army’s daring raid to rescue the hostages. For years, the Netanyahu family has portrayed Yoni Netanyahu as the main hero of the story, the person who ensured that the Israeli hostages held in Uganda by terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were rescued safely.

But in the new film, directed by Brazilian director Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad,” “RoboCop”), Yoni Netanyahu (Angel Bonanni) plays a much less significant role in the operation and is shot to death by a Ugandan soldier at a relatively early stage, the Hollywood Reporter said.

“It’s not a narrative that the Israeli prime minister is going to like at all,” British historian Saul David – whose book “Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport” served as the basis for the screenplay – told the paper. “He’s put a lot of pressure, even on people who are involved in the story. I mean he hasn’t actually said, ‘Change the story.’ But, ‘This is the way it happened, didn’t it?’”

Celebrations after Operation EntebbeCredit: Associated Press
Entebbe hostages return to IsraelCredit: Moshe Milner/GPO

The British production company Working Title, which produced the film, heard in 2015 that David was working on a book that would disclose new information about the Israeli rescue operation, and bought the rights to it. Padilha, the director, was determined to make the details of the operation accurate, even if this angered some people.

“It was very important to me to try to get as many details right as possible,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “We talked to lots of people who were there at the time, including five or six soldiers who were part of the raid itself. The criteria was to run with direct witnesses, as opposed to people who said ‘I heard’ or ‘I believe’ it was like this. So I think we are close to the truth.”

“The Israeli version of events about Entebbe that always played out is that Yoni is the great hero of the story,” David said. “Well, the reality is he’s a player in the story, but he’s probably not the most significant player. And there are certain errors that he makes during the operation itself.”

Operation EntebbeCredit: Nash / AP
Operation EntebbeCredit: IDF Archives

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