Bill Clinton admits trying to help Peres beat Netanyahu in 1996 election

In a rare acknowledgement, the former American leader admits that he tried to influence the 1996 Israeli election.

By: World Israel News Staff

Former US President Bill Clinton has admitted for the first time that he made efforts to help Shimon Peres in his failed attempt to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1996 Knesset elections. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 TV news, Clinton said that he wanted Peres to be prime minister because the Israeli Nobel Peace Prize winner would likely be more receptive to peace efforts than his rival, who went on to narrowly win the race. The election was held six months after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Asked in the interview whether 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.”

“I thought he [Peres] was more supportive of the peace process,” Clinton explained.” I tried to help  in a way that was consistent with what I believed to be in Israel’s interest, without saying anything about the differences in domestic polices, or anything else.”

Clinton did not describe the steps he had taken.

Netanyahu narrowly won the May 1996 vote. After his victory, Netanyahu visited Clinton at the White House. According to Clinton, Netanyahu “wanted me to know that he knew I wasn’t for him and he beat us anyway. And he was being very ‘Bibi’ (Netanyahu’s nickname).”

“I realized that he was now the leader of the country and if I wanted to support the peace, I had to find a way to work with him. I wasn’t so much angry as just bemused by the brashness with which he played his hand. But that’s who he is. He did a very good job of it,” Clinton said.

In the same interview Clinton said he thinks that the current Netanyahu coalition considers the Palestinians too weak to constitute much of a threat, adding, “I still hope that someday, some decent accommodation could be reached, and Israel would be even more prosperous.”