The prime minister's bureau on Wednesday accused former U.S. special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process Martin Indyk of making up a conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu during Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in 1995.
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Indyk, who served as ambassador to Israel in the '90s, said in a PBS documentary that aired on Tuesday that Netanyahu expressed disappointment that Rabin had been assassinated, lamenting that the murder would turn Rabin into a national hero. Netanyahu was the opposition leader at the time.
"Netanyahu sat next to me when I was ambassador in Israel at the time of Rabin’s funeral," Indyk says in the film. " 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 said that he had the impression that "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."
The prime minister's bureau issued a sweeping denial of Indyk's remarks, saying the conversation "never happened."
The Likud party called the comments "another lie by Martin Indyk, who doesn't stop slandering and reviling the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu."
The Zionist Union, in turn, said that Netanyahu's alleged remarks at Rabin's funeral "prove how low" he can go.
"Nothing has changed," the party said. "Netanyahu only cares about Netanyahu. Even now, as an exhausted civilian who doesn't function as a prime minister and doesn't provide solutions to his citizens, he only thinks of his own good, and not the good of the State of Israel."
Indyk's comments are reinforced by a telegram sent from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv on the morning after Rabin's assassination, a message that was exposed by Wikileaks a few years back. In the classified telegram that Indyk sent on November 5, 1995 at 10:15 A.M. to the White House and the State Department, he reported on a conversation that had taken place a few hours earlier between the State Department adviser at the embassy and Netanyahu. The Rabin assassination, Netanyahu is quoted as saying, 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."
Indyk had also written that Likud sources who spoke with embassy officials "referred in a panic" to the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in the '30s, "for which the entire revisionist movement was blamed." The sources "feared the left will do the same again with Likud and the right."
Three months after the telegram was sent, then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres announced early elections, which took place in May, six months after Rabin's death. Despite Netanyahu's concerns, he managed to close a 30 percent gap in public opinion and beat Peres by a small margin.