NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: We have done our best to confirm the video and translation using WikiLeaks, an email from the BBC, Huffington Post and others. We venture no opinion about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in this article. We provide only background on the origin of the video and the video itself.
WikiLeaks provides background on the video in an email send by BBC presenting quotes from editorials of Hebrew-language Israeli newspapers available to BBCM on July 15, 2010:
Channel 10 presented: The real (and deceitful) face of Binyamin Netanyahu. Broadcast on Friday night [9 Jul] on ‘This Week with Miki Rosenthal’, it was filmed secretly in 2001, during a visit by Citizen Netanyahu to the home of a bereaved family in the settlement of Ofra… The man in the video betrays himself in his own words as a con artist Netanyahu exposed the naked truth to his hosts at Ofra: he destroyed the Oslo accords with his own hands and deeds, and he’s even proud of it. After years in which we were told that the Palestinians are to blame, the truth has emerged from the horse’s mouth The real Netanyahu also brags about his knowledge of America: ‘I know what America is. America is something that can be moved easily.'” [From commentary by Gideon Levy in left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha’aretz]
In the video, which is from 2001, Netanyahu — who reportedly did not know his speech was being recorded — speaks frankly in Hebrew about relations with the Clinton White House and the peace process.
As noted in Haaretz, Netanyahu seems to boast of his knowledge of the US by saying, “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.”
Huffington Post added that Netanyahu also” boasts of manipulating the U.S. in the ongoing peace process,” citing the Washington Post who reported:
They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords],” he said. “I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue.
Columnist Gideon Levy wrote at the time of the video for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper:
These remarks are profoundly depressing. They bear out all of our fears and suspicions: that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn’t believe the Palestinians and doesn’t believe in the chance of an agreement with them, who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes. There’s no point in talking about Netanyahu’s impossible rightist coalition as an obstacle to progress. From now on, just say that Netanyahu doesn’t want it.
The video begins with footage of Netanyahu speaking while the English subtitles give background information pertinent to the clip. At about 2 minutes and 54 seconds Netanyahu asks for the camera to be turned of and this is the point at which the translation posted below begins. [You can go here for a translation in English and Hebrew.]
You can watch that video, below, followed by a somewhat rough translation.
Note in the first passage how Bibi brags that he has America wrapped around his thumb. The cynicism is breathtaking.
Netanyahu:…The Arabs are currently focusing on a war of terror and they think it will break us. The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing…
Woman: Wait a moment, but then the world will say “how come you’re conquering again?”
Netanyahu: the world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.
Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?
Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.
Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…
Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.
Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…
Netanyahu: So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.
In the following segment, Bibi boasts about how he emptied the Oslo Accords of meaning by an interpretation that made a mockery of them:
Woman: The Oslo Accords are a disaster.
Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that…The people [nation] has to know…
What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: “Will you act according to them?” and I answered: “yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.” “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?
Narrator: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.
Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.
Woman: Right [laughs]…The Beit She’an Valley.
Netanyahu: How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter – to my and to Arafat, at the same time – which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: “I’m not signing.” Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to my and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.
Woman: And despite that, one of our own people, excuse me, who knew it was a swindle, and that we were going to commit suicide with the Oslo Accord, gives them – for example – Hebron…
Netanyahu: Indeed, Hebron hurts. It hurts. It’s the thing that hurts. One of the famous rabbis, whom I very much respect, a rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, he said to me: “What would your father say?” I went to my father. Do you know a little about my father’s position?
…He’s not exactly a lily-white dove, as they say. So my father heard the question and said: “Tell the rabbi that your grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milikowski, was a smart Jew. Tell him it would be better to give two percent than to give a hundred percent. And that’s the choice here. You gave two percent and in that way you stopped the withdrawal. Instead of a hundred percent.” The trick is not to be there and be broken. The trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.
Here are a few of Levy’s choice characterizations of Bibi’s performance in this video:
…Israel has had many rightist leaders since Menachem Begin…but there has never been one like Netanyahu, who wants to do it by deceit, to mock America, trick the Palestinians and lead us all astray. The man in the video betrays himself in his own words as a con artist, and now he is again prime minister of Israel. Don’t try to claim that he has changed since then. Such a crooked way of thinking does not change over the years.
Forget the Bar-Ilan University speech…this is the real Netanyahu. No more claims that the Palestinians are to blame for the failure of the Oslo Accords. Netanyahu exposed the naked truth to his hosts at Ofra: he destroyed the Oslo accords with his own hands and deeds, and he’s even proud of it. After years in which we were told that the Palestinians are to blame, the truth has emerged from the horse’s mouth.
…The government of Israel is led by a man who…thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes.