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Netanyahu rebuffed while attempting to record closed-door meeting with US senators

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu sought to film and record a closed-door meeting with visiting US senators and diplomats this week, but was told by the American officials to shut off the equipment if he wanted the meeting to proceed, according to a report Wednesday.

Two unnamed individuals familiar with Monday’s incident told Walla news that the group of Democratic and Republican senators, as well as US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, entered the room for a meeting that was expected to touch on the potential nuclear deal with Iran.

When they came in, they saw a member of Netanyahu’s staff activate a videocamera.

Nides also noticed a small microphone attached to Netanyahu’s jacket, and asked the former prime minister why he was wearing the device.

Netanyahu attempted to brush off Nides’s question, answering “it’s nothing,” the report said.

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According to the sources, Senator Lindsey Graham demanded that all recording devices be removed from the room before the meeting could begin.

US Senators including Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez (center) at a press conference in Jerusalem on September 5, 2022. (Jeremy Sharon)

It is not clear why Netanyahu sought to record the meeting, but he has in recent weeks increased his public protest against a potential nuclear deal, and Walla speculated he may have been seeking video content for his campaign.

מסיים פגישה חשובה עם חבריי הטובים, הסנאטורים לינדזי גראהם ובוב מננדז, שהגיעו לישראל בראש משלחת דו-מפלגתית של סנאטורים וחברי קונגרס. ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/pNIVbWzRd1

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 5, 2022

Netanyahu’s office played down the incident, telling Walla that as a matter of protocol all meetings with the former prime minister are documented, and insisting “there was no drama” at the meeting. “The request was honored and the camera was removed.”

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides (L) and opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Knesset on December 9, 2021. (US Embassy in Israel)

The American group was part of a bipartisan senate delegation to Israel, which is being led by Senator Graham of South Carolina (Republican), and includes Republican senators Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas, as well as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez, a Democrat.

The visit came amid fears amongst Israeli officials over the looming Iran nuclear deal.

On Wednesday, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site Zman Yisrael reported that the deal is likely off the table after Iran made new demands Washington refuses to accept.

The nuclear agreement that has been negotiated on since Biden entered the White House in January 2021 focused on removing sanctions on Iran in exchange for limiting Tehran’s ability to reach the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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