Former US president Bill Clinton acknowledged for the first time that he tried to help Shimon Peres win Israel’s general elections in 1996 against Benjamin Netanyahu.
In an interview broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10 news on Tuesday, the former president, who has not made a secret of his difficult relationship with Netanyahu, admitted intervening on Peres’s behalf in the elections that were held six months after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin because, he said, he saw Peres as more supportive of the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort.
In the interview excerpts broadcast on Tuesday, Clinton did not specify how he intervened.
However, having spoken at Rabin’s funeral in November 1995, Clinton in March 2016 hosted a so-called “summit of the peacemakers” in Egypt with regional leaders including Peres — who had taken over as prime minister after the assassination — Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Hussein and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Clinton then visited Israel, which was being battered by a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings. In April, he hosted Peres at the White House, where the two signed a joint declaration on combatting terrorism.
All this was to no avail. Having trailed Peres in opinion polls before those attacks, Netanyahu narrowly won the May 1996 vote.
Asked in the interview whether it would be “fair to say” that he “tried to help Shimon Peres to win the election,” Clinton replied: “That would be fair to say. I tried to do it in a way that didn’t overtly involve me.”