Joe Biden and the invented stories of his most important meeting with Golda Meir

US President Joe Biden has a favorite story about his long relationship with Israel. For decades, he would publicly recount his 1973 meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir – which he described in 2015 as “one of the most important meetings he has ever had. in my life”.

But parts of the story Biden told Wednesday in the White House when the menorah was lit for Hanukkah were inaccurate. Most of Biden’s details on Wednesday were identical or very similar to those in his previous statements. Biden said Meir kept pointing to a series of maps, that future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was present, that Meir had offered to take a picture with Biden, and that he had painted a depressing picture of the security situation. in Israel, but then assured him that Israel had “a Sri weapon” in its struggles with its neighbors: “We have nowhere else to go.”

But two elements of Biden’s version on Wednesday were different from the norm, and both changes were incorrect. Obviously, one of the lies was an accidental mistake. The other is more substantial.

Biden started on Wednesday in like this: “And during the Six Day War, I had the opportunity: she invited me to come because I would be the link between her and the Egyptians around Suez, and so via”Later in the story, he notes that Meir referred to him during the meeting as” Mr. Ambassador “.

Facts first:

Biden got the date wrong for his meeting with Meir. The meeting took place about five weeks before the Yom Kippur War (October 6) in 1973 and not during the Six Day War of 1967. More importantly, Biden exaggerated his importance to Israel at the time. There are not prove that Meir intended to use it as a kind of “mediation” between Israel and Egypt. At the time of the 1967 Six Day War, Biden was still a law student and Meir was not yet prime minister.

Biden’s claim about “mediation” is vague, but experts on the 1973 war say it is also clearly inaccurate. While Biden visited Egypt in 1973 shortly before his visit in Israel and told Meir what Egyptian officials had told him, there is no indication that Meir wanted to use a 30-year-old American citizen who had never visited Israel before to become a mediator. in a complicated and dangerous dispute after only 9 months from his membership in the Senate.

Indeed, a written summary of the meeting by an Israeli government official stated that Biden seemed inexperienced and that Meir had vehemently rejected his suggestion that Israel unilaterally withdraw from a certain area as a step towards the pace.

A White House official suggested on CNN Thursday that Biden’s claim that “she invited me to come because I would be the liaison between her and the Egyptians on Suez” was just a reference to her meeting Egyptian officials and Israelis on a 1973 trip to discuss relations between the two countries.

But Biden’s words, which the Republican National Committee on Thursday called incorrect, gave the impression that Meir was trying to use him. in an important diplomatic role. While experts say this is it in unfounded reality. Uri Bar-Joseph, a political science professor at Haifa University, said in an email that there was “nothing” in the Israeli summary of the August 31, 1973 meeting, even to “insin” that Meir had invited Biden to be a moderator.

“As far as I know, there is no basis for it to be a link between the two sides,” Asaf Senifer, associate professor of international security at Birmingham University and editor of a book on Yom Kippur War, said. in an e-mail.

In Biden’s tale of the story on Wednesday, the only one we could find in when he talked about the role of “communication”, he said of Meir: “He looked at me and said: ‘Mr Ambassador, would you like a photo?'”

But in some other versions of the story, Biden said that Meir addressed him before or during the photo opportunity as “the son of a senator”, not “Mr. Ambassador”.

Meir died in 1978 and it is impossible to know exactly what was said between her and Biden 48 years earlier. But the Israeli summary of the 100-minute meeting, an internal memo written by a government official at the time, provides useful information. The summary, which was discussed by the media Israelis in 2020 and available online at the Israeli State Archives, states that Biden admitted that he is not an expert on Egypt and that Biden was warmly welcomed on his trip in Egypt, but met the second row (of officials) Right.

Officials said Meir made broad remarks arguing against Biden’s proposal for Israel to seek the pace withdrawing from aarea he specifies that he did not believe it had strategic value. (The summary did not specify thearea Biden was talking about, but said it wasn’t the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, or Sharm el-Sheikh.)

The Israeli official who wrote the summary, Gideon Yarden, ended up giving his personal assessment of Biden. He wrote that Biden was full of admiration and appreciation for Meir, and kept saying that he came to learn “but on the other hand” he spoke in a way that reflected his “age and diplomatic experience”. Yarden put the word “experience” in quotes, ironically.

Another part of the Israeli account of the meeting differs from that provided by Biden in 2015.

In a speech in occasion of Israel’s Independence Day, then US Vice President Biden said he told Meir and Rabin during the meeting: “I thought (Egypt) were preparing to attack again.” “And everyone, including my army and the Israeli army, thought I was crazy,” she added.

The Israeli summary does not refer to any of Biden’s comments. Instead, according to the summary, Biden reported that, of all the officials he met in Egypt, no one denied Israel’s absolute military superiority and that officials said it would be impossible for Egypt now to enter in war against Israel. Indeed, Egypt and Syria ended up attacking Israel in early October 1973. The attack also took Israel by surprise.