Middle East Monitor / September 14, 2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a crudely doctored video clip of Mahmoud Abbas, showing the Palestinian president making inflammatory remarks, to sway US President Donald Trump’s policy on the Middle East.
The sensational allegation was made by veteran Washington Post correspondent and author Bob Woodward in his new book Rage.
Woodward, who chronicles some of Trump’s most consequential foreign policy decisions in the 392-page volume, said that Trump changed US policy towards the Palestinians after Netanyahu showed him a crudely forged video of Abbas ordering murders.
Details of what is thought to be a turning point in Trump’s attitude towards Palestine was relayed to Woodward by former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Exxon Mobil CEO was ousted in 2018 following a number of high-profile disagreements with Trump.
Trump is said to have viewed Netanyahu as the main obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. He was beginning to have doubts about the Likud leader and during one of his visits to Washington during the early months of the Trump presidency, the US chief reportedly told the Israeli prime minister that he believed his government, not the Palestinians, might be the real problem holding back the peace process.
Trump’s view dramatically shifted following his visit to Israel in 2017 after being shown what Tillerson warned was a fake video. The doctored clip was presented to Trump during a meeting with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is said to have pulled Tillerson into a meeting because Trump was upset at the video shown by Netanyahu.
“Watch this! This is unbelievable! You’ve got to see this,” Trump said to Tillerson, before ordering staff to play what Tillerson believed to be a crudely fabricated video of Abbas making inflammatory statements.
The video showed Abbas supposedly ordering the murder of children by stringing together out-of-context words and sentences. Cornering Trump, Netanyahu asked: “and that’s the guy you want to help?”
When the Israeli leader, who is being tried for corruption, had left the room, Tillerson said to Trump: “Mr President, you realise that the whole thing was fabricated?”
“Well it’s not fabricated,” Trump replied insisting that “they got the guy on tape saying it.”
A day after watching the “spliced-together” video intended to “counter any pro-Palestinian sentiments that were surfacing,” Trump privately berated Abbas when the two met in Bethlehem. The US President denounced Abbas as a “liar” and a “murderer” who had “tricked [him]” into believing that the long-time Palestinian leader could be trusted.
Shortly after Trump ordered the closure of the Palestinian representative office in Washington and cut nearly all US aid to the West Bank, Gaza and Palestinian refugees.