Truth Or Dare: New Tales Of Ben-Menashe

Did Ari Ben-Menashe make history--or simply make up a story? The Israeli exile says he was a key witness to the "October Surprise." Officials in many countries have dismissed his various claims (NEWSWEEK, Nov. 4 and Nov. 11). Last week another blow against his credibility came from closer to home: BenMenashe's ex-wife, Ora, provided new tales of "Ari's fantasies" in an interview with Maariv, the Israeli daily owned by just-deceased media magnate Robert Maxwell (whom Ben-Menashe suggested was a Mossad collaborator). Some excerpts:

"About 10 days ago, he called me from Houston, Texas, and warned me not to talk with journalists. Afterwards, he added that he knows that I gave American secrets to the Soviets. He lives in an imaginary world. Anyone who counts on him will be misled and will mislead others ...

"He writes [in his unpublished autobiography] that he blew up the air control tower in Entebbe. He also told me that he put the secret transmitter into the [nuclear] reactor [in Iraq], which directed our pilots where to bomb.

"In 1986, while he was vice president, Bush visited Israel and had dinner at the Jerusalem Hilton. I was working there in public relations. I exchanged ... pleasantries with him and someone took our picture. When Ari was arrested in New York [having been charged, and later acquitted, with attempting to sell Israeli transport planes to Iran], he asked his mother to get that picture from me. He wanted to use it to convince the jury that Bush was also involved. That's how Ari's mind works--one measure of reality and nine measures of imagination."