The tape was shot during the early stages of the second intifada, when violence between Israelis and Palestinians was escalating. Netanyahu was speaking with settlers who lost family members to Palestinian attacks.
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister at the time, had recently deployed additional Israeli troops in the West Bank.
Undermining the Oslo Accords
Netanyahu – who did not hold political office when the recording was made – was dismissive of the United States, calling it easily manipulated.
“I know what America is,” Netanyahu said. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.”
Netanyahu also spoke extensively about undermining the Oslo Accords, the agreement signed in 1993 which set a framework for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The Oslo Accords specified that Israel would be allowed to keep “military zones” in the West Bank in any future agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu told the settlers he would use that loophole to retain large portions of Palestinian territory.
“I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders,” he said.
“How do we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone.”
In the recording, Netanyahu described Bill Clinton – the former US president who helped to negotiate the accords – as “radically pro-Palestinian”.