By Dan Williams Sun Dec 18, 8:15 AM ET
TEL AVIV (Reuters) -has hired one of Israeli Prime Minister 's top strategists to market his controversial new film about 's retaliation for the Palestinian attack on its team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Eyal Arad, who helped mastermind the recent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, said on Sunday he was promoting the film "Munich" in the Jewish state, where it has already stirred fierce debate.
"This market is an important market," Arad told Reuters.
"We are talking about a film that has generated a lot of interest here, and naturally that sort of interest can entail some negative reactions as well as positive reactions," he said.
Arad has already arranged a courtesy screening in Tel Aviv for the widows of two of the 11 slain Israeli sportsmen, attended by the film's producer and screenwriter. "Munich" opens in the United States on December 23 and in Israel on January 26.
There is talk in Israeli security circles of a preview for veterans of the spy agency Mossad, which hunted down and killed Palestinians blamed for the Olympics attack -- though with the ex-assassins keeping a low profile, Arad said this was unlikely.
Some former agents and diplomats have already ended their silence on learning that Spielberg's main historical source for the film was the widely discredited 1984 book "Vengeance."
Purportedly based on the confessions of a Mossad assassin who broke ranks in protest at his country's aggressive tactics, "Vengeance" portrays a hit team torn by questions of conscience, on the run from Palestinian gunmen, and occasionally inept -- a version of events rejected by historians in Israel and abroad.
Avi Dichter, a retired head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service who attended a preview in Washington, likened "Munich" to a children's adventure story.
"There is no comparison between what you see in the movie and how it works in reality," he said.
But one of the widows who saw Spielberg's film suggested that the lack of historical accuracy may have worked in Israel's favor.
Ilana Romano noted that, unlike the book, it overlooks the most notorious Mossad foul-up -- the 1973 killing of a Moroccan waiter mistaken for a senior Palestinian fugitive in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer.
"Had Spielberg wanted to harm Israel's image, he would have included the Lillehammer affair," Romano, whose weightlifter husband was the first Olympian killed, told Israeli television. "Don't let's over-analyze Spielberg's film."