Scoop: Netanyahu shared fake video as proof of Iranian virus cover-up
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared with his Cabinet a video he claimed was evidence of Iran concealing coronavirus deaths by dropping bodies in garbage dumps, two Cabinet ministers tell me.
Behind the scenes: Several hours later, Netanyahu's office realized the video had nothing to do with Iran, or with the coronavirus crisis. It was a clip from “Pandemic," a 2007 Hallmark Channel mini-series.
The backdrop: Iran has been Netanyahu's top foreign policy focus for 25 years. Israeli intelligence believes there have been up to five times more coronavirus deaths there than the 3,036 that have been officially acknowledged, an Israeli official tells me. Netanyahu thought he'd seen evidence of a cover-up.
During a conference call with Cabinet ministers on Monday, Netanyahu said he'd seen a video of Iranian soldiers loading bodies onto trucks and dropping them at garbage dumps.
- According to two ministers who were on the call, Netanyahu said his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, had shown him the video.
- Many of the ministers asked to watch the video, and Netanyahu asked his national security adviser to send it to the entire Cabinet.
- The video had been shared by Iranians on social media over the last week, and it was passed on to Netanyahu without any confirmation of its authenticity.
The prime minister’s office didn’t deny this account. It said the video had only been sent to three Cabinet ministers who requested it and were told it came from social media and its authenticity was unclear.
Go deeper: Israel stunned as rivals Netanyahu and Gantz join forces