Is former US Mideast envoy Martin Indyk lying about statements he alleged Binyamin Netanyahu made to him during the funeral ceremony for assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, or is Netanyahu just trying to cover up an embarrassing revelation from the past?
Previously classified US government cables may be able to shed some light on the controversy - cables sent by none other than then-Ambassador Martin Indyk on the very day he claims Netanyahu made the alleged comments.
"Netanyahu sat next to me when I was ambassador in Israel at the time of Rabin’s funeral," Indyk claimed in a PBS interview on Wednesday, during which he issued a number of attacks against the current Israeli PM. "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.'"
Netanyahu's office has rejected the story as an outright lie, while Indyk has been forced onto the defensive after it was revealed he never actually sat anywhere near Netanyahu at Rabin's funeral. Doubling down on his version of events, Indyk claimed that the remarks in question had in fact been made by Netanyahu at a special Knesset ceremony on November 5, 1995, prior to the funeral itself - although footage from that event show only family members were seated.
Now, leaked diplomatic cables published by the Wikileaks website have poured even more doubt over that version of events as well.
In a cable sent by Indyk on November 5, 1995 - the day he claims to have had the conversation with Netanyahu - then-Ambassador Indyk told the US State Department that his conversation with Netanyahu had in fact occurred the day before. More remarkably still, the content of Netanyahu's statement is the very different to those attributed to him more recently by Indyk.
In the cable, entitled "RABIN ASSASSINATION: NEXT STEPS IN ISRAEL'S POLITICAL SUCCESSION", Indyk outlines the political ramifications of the Rabin assassination, including the sense of panic among the Israeli Right over concerns of a rout during subsequent elections:
"Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told PolOff (political officer - ed.) last night that the assassination of Rabin is 'a disaster for the Jewish people, a disaster of Israel and a disaster for the Right with ill be decimated if elections are called soon.'"
Indyk then went on to relate concerns from "other Likud sources" who feared a political witchhunt against the Right.
While the cable does not explicitly rule out Netanyahu having made the rather different, incendiary comments Indyk more recently attributed to him as well, it does seem rather strange that such sentiments would have been excluded, if indeed they were said.
The comments alleged by Indyk in Wednesday's interview do not appear in any subsequent cables either.