In an anecdote told during a White House celebration marking Hanukkah, President Joe Biden seemed to mix up the 1967 Six Day War with the Yom Kippur War, which took place six years later.
During a menorah lighting on Wednesday, Biden told guests in the East Room that he had known every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, who served as the country’s fourth head of government.
He said: “During the Six Day War…she invited me to come over because I was going to be the liaison between she and the Egyptians about the Suez,” without specifying what he meant by “liaison.”
He said he sat “in front of her desk” as she flipped through a “bevy of maps,” adding “it was so depressing…about what happened. She gave me every detail.”
Meir wasn’t elected prime minister until 1969, or two years after the short conflict in which Israel defeated a surprise attack from an Arab coalition of Jordan, Syria and Egypt.
Biden was apparently recalling his 1973 meeting with Meir, when he made his first trip to Israel as a 30-year-old senator from Delaware, an anecdote he has shared before.
The Times of Israel reported that the meeting took place 40 days before the Yom Kippur War broke out on October 6. Also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, it lasted until October 25 that year.
Excerpts from a classified memo by a senior Israeli official reported by Israeli media last year gave different details of the pair’s meeting nearly five decades ago.
During their talks, Biden told Meir that Israel’s capture of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war amounted to “creeping annexation.”
Biden said in the meeting that because he believed Israel was militarily dominant, it could make the first move for peace by withdrawing from areas that held no strategic importance, the Times of Israel reported, citing Channel 13.
Meir rejected Biden’s appeal and gave him a speech about the region and its problems, the paper reported. The unnamed Israeli official said Biden had demonstrated respect toward the Israeli leader, but “displayed a fervor and made comments that signaled his lack of diplomatic experience,” The Times reported.
Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.