Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday stridently denied that during the funeral for the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, he expressed disappointment that Rabin’s untimely death would mean he’d go down in history as a “hero.”
Martin Indyk, who was the American ambassador to Israel at the time, claimed that Netanyahu, then the leader of the opposition, sat next to him at the time of the funeral and said: “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.”
Hours after Indyk’s account was aired Tuesday night in a two-hour-long PBS “Frontline” documentary on the relationship between Netanyahu and the White House, the Prime Minister’s Office put out a terse response asserting that “these things never happened.”
Photos from the 1995 funeral carried by Israeli media showed Netanyahu sitting between former president Moshe Katsav and businessman Martin Schlaff. But Indyk later said on Twitter that the conversation took place earlier, at the Knesset, when Rabin’s body was lying in state, rather than at the funeral.
“The conversation w Bibi took place on Nov 5/95 when we sat together at the Knesset ceremony to receive Rabin’s coffin to lie in state,” he wrote on Twitter.
A PBS transcript of Indyk’s interview also made clear that the former envoy had been referring to a conversation at the Knesset ceremony for the slain prime minister, rather than the funeral itself.
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) January 6, 2016
The Likud party, meanwhile, said the comment was “another blatant lie by Martin Indyk, who ceaselessly badmouths and besmirches” Netanyahu. After Indyk’s clarification, the party issued another denial, according to Hebrew media reports.
But Yuval Rabin, the son of the slain prime minister, told Channel 2 he believed Indyk’s account.
Indyk in the PBC movie had speculated that the future prime minister’s alleged comments at the Knesset event indicated 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.
“He exploited that and ran against Oslo in the  elections and beat [Shimon] Peres, but he only beat him by something like a half of 1 percent,” Indyk added.