In 1973, 30-year-old freshman senator Joe Biden made his first overseas trip to Egypt and Israel. This week, an Israeli historian revealed Biden had passed on disinformation to then-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, telling her Egypt believed it would be impossible to go to war with Israel — contributing to an Israeli consensus that would end up costing the Jewish state dearly when its neighboring foe caught it unawares a little more than a month later and attacked.
Despite Israel’s victory in the Yom Kippur War, the fact that Egypt caught it by surprise is still an open wound for the country.
Biden met with mid-tier Egyptian officials in Cairo, the highest ranking of whom was the Minister of Propaganda. Hassanein Heikel, then-editor of the semi-official Al-Ahram daily and former minister of information, was also at the meeting, Yigal Kipnis told Israel’s Channel 12 news this week.
Later, the junior senator from Delaware would sit with Israel’s premier, a meeting he often recounts when speaking at Jewish or pro-Israel events, and tell her that the general consensus among the Egyptian officials he met with was that Israel’s military superiority made it all but impossible to consider the option of entering a conflict with it.
Kipnis stressed that it is unclear if Biden’s meeting and the subsequent misinformation he imparted to Meir, which is recorded in a document that was sent to then Israel’s then-Washington envoy Simcha Dinitz, did anything to impact Israel’s existing consensus that war was not on the cards.”Golda did not need Biden to think that the Egyptians would not go to war and that if they did then the result would be clear,” Kipnis told the Israeli network, adding that it is difficult to know how much Biden’s information helped the Egyptian fraud scheme, if at all.
“The Egyptians seem to have used Biden’s visit as part of their plan to ‘lull’ Israel into thinking there was no chance of war,” the report said.
However, Biden himself paints a very different picture of the meeting with Meir, one that puts into question the depiction of him as an unwitting tool who unknowingly passed on disinformation to Israel.
While he was vice president of the United States under Barack Obama, Biden referred to the meeting in an April 2015 speech he gave at an event marking Israel’s Independence Day. In it Biden claimed to have been the only one in the room who expressed deep concern about an impending war between Israel and Egypt.
According to Biden, he told Meir, “I thought that they were getting ready to attack again.”
“And everyone including my military and Israeli military thought I was crazy,” Biden said in 2015.
“I remember driving from Cairo all the way to out to the Suez. And you could see these great plumes of dust and sand. But none it seemed isolated. It turns out it was maneuvers taking place in the desert. And I was really worried. And we went through, and she painted a bleak, bleak picture — scared the hell out of me, quite frankly, about the odds,”
Later, Biden recounted, Meir asked Biden to pose for a photo.
“She said, ‘Senator, you look so worried,’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Well, my God, Madam Prime Minister,’ and I turned to look at her. I said, ‘The picture you paint.’ She said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. We have’ — I thought she only said this to me. She said, ‘We have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs: You see, we have no place else to go.’”
“And it’s an absolutely true story,” Biden said.
In October, Channel 13’s Nadav Eyal released excerpts from a classified memo of the meeting made by a unnamed senior Israeli official who was in attendance, who corroborated Kipnis’ report, and that of Dinitz’s, that Biden had expressly told Meir that Egypt was not interested in going to war.
According to the government memo, Biden also warned that Israel’s actions in the territories it had captured during the defensive Six Day War six years earlier, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, were leading to “creeping annexation,” and suggested unilateral withdrawals.
The memo said Biden also slammed the Nixon administration for being “dragged by Israel,” complaining that it was impossible to have a real debate in the Senate about the Middle East as senators were “afraid” of saying things that would be unpopular with Jewish voters.
Author : Deborah Danan