Sunday, May 21, 2017

Begin and Israel's Economy

The Shocking Election That Saved Israel's Economy


It wasn't easy, but the capitalist reforms set in motion by Prime Minister Menachem Begin 40 years ago were transformative. 


Zev Chafets, May 20, 2017‏ 


Forty years ago this week, the dynamic, vibrant, entrepreneurial modern Israeli economy was born, though nobody knew it at the time.

It was May 17, 1977. Israelis crowded around their black-and-white television screens for the national election results. At exactly 10 p.m., the face of Haim Yavin, the normally unflappable anchorman of Israel’s lone TV channel, appeared, looking very flapped indeed. “Ma’hapach!” he intoned, a variation of the usual Hebrew word for “revolution.” It was a softer term Yavin had come up with on his way to the studio. He later explained that he hadn’t wanted to cause panic.

The result was shocking. There had never been a change of governing party before in Israel. For the first time, Mapai, the socialist party founded by David Ben-Gurion and now led by his disciple Shimon Peres, was out of power.

Even more shocking, Menachem Begin was in. Begin, who had lost eight straight elections. Begin, who had been called many terrible things by his political adversaries: “Fascist” (untrue), “rabble rousing street orator” (true), “enemy of democracy” (nonsense) and “former terrorist” (true, but with an explanation).

Perhaps the worst accusation they had leveled against Begin was that he was a capitalist. That was a bit ironic for a man who was born broke and stayed that way all his life. Even as prime minister, Begin bought his suits on a payment plan.


For the rest of the article.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Begin Learns His Wife Is Going to Eretz-Yisrael




By SETH LIPSKY, Special to the Sun | April 5, 2017


…Then came word of the death early this morning of Masha Leon. She was for decades the gossip columnist of the Jewish Forward...

Little did any of them know that when Masha was a girl, she and her mother caused to be sent one of the most consequential messages in the history of the Jews...It’s a reminder that one just never knows what might be the reward of an act of kindness. Masha herself didn’t learn the consequences until decades after it happened.

Masha was born in Warsaw, and survived, she once wrote, by “a series of miracles.” She lived through the bombing of Warsaw, the German occupation, and getting trapped in a noman’s land between hostile Nazis and Russians. What strength Masha’s pluck must have given her mother, Zelda. For a while they survived on potatoes, which is why Masha’s freelance resume included, alongside such titles as McCall’s and Ladies Home Journal, the Idaho Potato Journal.

Eventually they got to Vilna, where, in August 1940, Russian secret police threw Masha’s father, an anticommunist Polish journalist named Matvey Bernstein, into Lukishki prison. One day Masha and her mother were waiting outside hoping to get to him some warm clothing. They thought he’d need it for the exile to Siberia that they assumed lay ahead. A young newlywed woman next to them whispered that she was sending into the prison a message to her husband on a piece of paper stuffed into a bar of soap.

The newlywed was desperate to get word to her husband that she was going to make aliyah to Eretz Israel. Masha’s mother whispered a warning that the authorities might cut open the soap, discover the note, and exact punishment. “My mother,” Masha would later relate, “suggested that instead she should embroider a coded message on a handkerchief—no one would suspect anything, since embroidery was commonplace.”

At the time Masha and her mother had no idea who the young woman was. Masha’s father was indeed sent to Siberia, while she and her mother were among the lucky recipients of visas from the righteous Japanese consul at Kovno, Chiune Sughihara. That enabled their escape to Canada, and, in 1945, arrival in America, where Masha would raise her own family. And, eventually, discover the mystery of the young newlywed outside Lukishki prison.

Masha was reading Menachem Begin’s 1977 memoir, “White Nights,” when she came to the chapter about his imprisonment at Lukishki. Begin related that he shared a cell with a prisoner named Bernstein. One day, Begin received from his wife several handkerchiefs. They were embroidered with the same word, “Ola,” which, at first, seemed an odd misspelling of, “Ala,” Aliza’s Polish nickname. The two prisoners puzzled over it. It was Bernstein who suddenly exclaimed that “Ola” in Hebrew can be transliterated as “aliyah.” She was telling him that she was heading to Palestine. “It was all clear to me now,” Begin wrote. 




Begin told of how he’d considered divorcing his wife, so that Aliza would be free to remarry if he were to die in prison or Siberia. But after deciphering the coded handkerchief, he didn’t. My own theory is that the knowledge that Aliza would be in Israel was one of the things that sustained Begin in his epic journey from the Gulag to Palestine, where he led the revolt against the British and set the stage for independence.

Masha eventually told the story to Aliza herself and, when he was in New York, to the Begins’ son Benny. “Were it not for your father,” Benny told Masha, “I might never have been born!” Nor might have been the state of Israel itself — save, one can imagine, for the fact that one day outside Lukishki Prison, Zelda Bernstein was tugged along to glory by her plucky young daughter named Masha.


Another confirmation of Begin's memoirs and reminisces.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Menachem Begin vs. David Ben-Gurion 1960





Published in Haaretz:


The Only Israeli Knesset Session That Was Top Secret

Why was a seemingly innocuous parliamentary meeting in December 1960 held behind closed doors?

A look at the classified minutes reveals a few surprises.

At first glance, the minutes of a Knesset session on December 26, 1960 look like nothing out of the ordinary. But then the heading “Top secret” jumps out at the reader – meaning this particular document is anything but mundane.

“The session in question was the first and only Knesset session that took place behind closed doors, and whose minutes were classified as confidential,” explains historian Lior Brichta of the University of Haifa.

A few months ago, Brichta contacted the Knesset Archives and asked to see the document. The Knesset forwarded the request to the Israel State Archives, and received a green light to release it. “Without this request, the minutes would have remained sealed in the Knesset Archives,” said archive director Inda Novominsky.

The minutes reveal that there was nothing in the session that needed to be kept from the public, and begs the question of how many other documents are deemed classified for no good reason.
Dr. Nir Mann serves as historical adviser to the Knesset Museum, which is currently under construction. He says he wondered why the session was deemed so secret. The minutes reveal no new details about security matters or secret policies.

However, between the lines, another issue can be found that is very pertinent to our own times: strong accusations by the opposition –which at the time was right wing – against the conduct of the government under then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, which the opposition labeled “autocratic.”

“The opposition sensed Ben-Gurion’s outright contempt for it,” Mann relates.

The session took place behind closed doors mainly for technical reasons. Menachem Begin – head of the Herut Movement, which was later to merge into Likud – felt his questions to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee about security matters were being ignored. To try to get around the panel, Begin attempted a parliamentary tactic – to have the committee meeting held in front of the entire Knesset. It was declared “a closed meeting to decide whether to hold the meeting behind closed doors,” according to the minutes.

The attempt actually failed, but its significance lay in the fact it was made at all – because by doing so, the opposition was given the opportunity to embarrass the coalition – “to flex its muscles,” as Mann puts it and make clear it was unhappy with Ben-Gurion’s bullying.

MK Aryeh Ben-Eliezer, Begin’s fellow party member and one of the founders of Herut, wasn’t sparing in his criticism of Ben-Gurion: “One’s man autocratic rule over the institutions of government, the security establishment and army – even if the individual is a civilian – is not civilian authority. It is autocracy,” Ben-Eliezer declared at the start of the session.

According to the law, the government must take responsibility for its actions and account for them in the Knesset, Ben-Eliezer told the legislature. But Ben-Gurion, the opposition MK said, was thumbing his nose at this. “Sometimes, the government presents no accounting at all for its actions, and sometimes it presents an accounting that does not conform to the truth and is opposed to the facts,” Ben-Eliezer alleged.

“The Knesset cannot, must not, waive its primary right to receive a report on the actions of the government, as the law requires,” he added.

There were a number of security-related issues on the agenda at the time, details of which the opposition demanded to hear about from the government.

First and foremost was the Lavon Affair, “a convoluted, complicated affair that rocked the political establishment” and marked the start of Ben-Gurion’s decline, according to Mann.

A day before the confidential Knesset session in December 1960, the government had decided to acquit Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon of accusations that he had given the order for what became known as “the rotten business” – a failed, covert terror operation carried out by Israel in Egypt in 1954.

Another affair at the time was the resignation of IDF Chief of Staff Haim Laskov. Arms deals between Israel and Germany also disturbed the opposition.

Referring to the government’s decision to conceal information from parliament, Ben-Eliezer said: “This system misleads Knesset members who are required to express their opinion by voting on known matters.” He said the government’s approach had helped create situations “like the Lavon Affair.”

The prime minister was unimpressed with the criticism. Speaking from the podium, Ben-Gurion said, “MK Ben-Eliezer should understand that he is neither the Knesset nor the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, but only one of its members. They can accept his opinion or reject it, and he [shouldn’t] come telling tales.”

Ben-Gurion said that if decisions made by the government and Knesset on various issues “were unpleasant to the gentlemen, that is their business.” He added: “The government does not report on everything, all details, all everyday actions, to the Knesset. The Knesset can demand that a minister reports on anything the Knesset wants.”

Finally, Ben-Gurion fired a barb in Begin’s direction: “Mr. Begin knows secrets about arguments between the deputy defense minister, or not the deputy defense minister. … I don’t know where he gets his information from … from the Mem Bet security service?” Ben-Gurion was making a pun based on Begin’s initials in Hebrew and the initials of the Shin Bet security service.

After reading the minutes, historian Mann says that although the opposition lost on points – it was unable to get the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held in the presence of the entire Knesset – it did secure one victory: After that session, “neither Ben-Gurion nor anyone else dared cast aspersions on the honor of the [defense] committee and the status of Knesset committees.”

According to Mann, this singular event “left its mark as a clear democratic sign in the history of the Knesset.”

Mann’s colleague, Hadassah Greenberg-Yaakov, is heading the Knesset Museum project. She says that these hidden minutes will be part of the museum’s collection, which will be housed in the old Knesset building – Frumin House, in the center of Jerusalem. She adds that the museum will present the history of the Knesset during the first decades of the state, including some dilemmas that are still relevant to governments today.

Ofer Aderet

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Begin Center Archaeology

With the beginning of work in the Menachem Begin Reich Archaeology Garden to create a pathway for visitors to better observe and study the finds from the Second Temple, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras, we recall the exemplary find here in 1979 of silver amulets or pendants







by Dr. Gaby Barkay







which was later reported on in the New York Times:


Solving a Riddle Written in Silver
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORDSEPT. 28, 2004

The words are among the most familiar and ecumenical in the liturgies of Judaism and Christianity. At the close of a worship service, the rabbi, priest or pastor delivers, with only slight variations, the comforting and fortifying benediction:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."

An archaeological discovery in 1979 revealed that the Priestly Benediction, as the verse from Numbers 6:24-26 is called, appeared to be the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. -- some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

But doubts persisted. The silver was cracked and corroded, and many words and not a few whole lines in the faintly scratched inscriptions were unreadable. Some critics contended that the artifacts were from the third or second century B.C., and thus of less importance in establishing the antiquity of religious concepts and language that became part of the Hebrew Bible.

So researchers at the University of Southern California have now re-examined the inscriptions using new photographic and computer imaging techniques. The words still do not exactly leap off the silver. But the researchers said they could finally be "read fully and analyzed with far greater precision," and that they were indeed the earliest.

Continue reading the main story
In a scholarly report published this month, the research team concluded that the improved reading of the inscriptions confirmed their greater antiquity. The script, the team wrote, is indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile of Israelites in Babylonia.

The researchers further reaffirmed that the scrolls "preserve the earliest known citations of texts also found in the Hebrew Bible and that they provide us with the earliest examples of confessional statements concerning Yahweh."

Some of the previously unreadable lines seemed to remove any doubt about the purpose of the silver scrolls: they were amulets. Unrolled, one amulet is nearly four inches long and an inch wide and the other an inch and a half long and about half an inch wide. The inscribed words, the researchers said, were "intended to provide a blessing that will be used to protect the wearer from some manner of evil forces."

The report in The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research was written by Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel who discovered the artifacts, and collaborators associated with Southern California's West Semitic Research Project. The project leader is Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, a professor of Semitic languages at U.S.C., who worked with Dr. Marilyn J. Lundberg, a Hebrew Bible specialist with the project, and Dr. Andrew G. Vaughn, a biblical historian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.

A companion article for next month's issue of the magazine Near Eastern Archaeology describes the new technology used in the research. The article is by the same authors, as well as Kenneth Zuckerman, Dr. Zuckerman's brother and a specialist in photographing ancient documents.

Other scholars not affiliated with the research but familiar with it agreed with the group's conclusions.

They said it was a relief to have the antiquity and authenticity of the artifacts confirmed, considering that other inscriptions from biblical times have suffered from their uncertain provenance.

Scholars also noted that early Hebrew inscriptions were a rarity, and called the work on the amulets a significant contribution to an understanding of the history of religion in ancient Israel, particularly the time of the Judean Monarchy 2,600 years ago.

"These photographs are far superior to what you can see looking at the inscriptions with the naked eye," said Dr. Wayne Pitard, professor of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern religions at the University of Illinois.

Dr. Pitard said the evidence for the antiquity of the benediction was now compelling, although this did not necessarily mean that the Book of Numbers already existed at that time. Possibly it did, he added, but if not, at least some elements of the book were current before the Babylonian exile.

A part of the sacred Torah of Judaism (the first five books of the Bible), Numbers includes a narrative of the Israelite wanderings from Mount Sinai to the east side of the Jordan River. Some scholars think the Torah was compiled in the time of the exile. A number of other scholars, the so-called minimalists, who are influential mainly in Europe, argue that the Bible was a relatively recent invention by those who took control of Judea in the late fourth century B.C. In this view, the early books of the Bible were largely fictional to give the new rulers a place in the country's history and thus a claim to the land.

"The new research on the inscriptions suggests that that's not true," Dr. Pitard said. In fact, the research team noted in its journal report that the improved images showed the seventh-century lines of the benediction to be "actually closer to the biblical parallels than previously recognized."

Dr. P. Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University, a specialist in ancient Semitic scripts, said the research should "settle any controversy over these inscriptions."

A close study, Dr. McCarter said, showed that the handwriting is an early style of Hebrew script and the letters are from an old Hebrew alphabet, which had all but ceased to be used after the destruction of Jerusalem. Later Hebrew writing usually adopted the Aramaic alphabet.

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There was an exception in the time of Roman rule, around the first centuries B.C. and A.D. The archaic Hebrew script and letters were revived and used widely in documents. But Dr. McCarter noted telling attributes of the strokes of the letters and the spelling on the amulets that, he said, ruled out the more recent date for the inscriptions. Words in the revived Hebrew writing would have included letters indicating vowel sounds. The benediction, the scholar said, was written in words spelled entirely with consonants, the authentic archaic way.

The two silver scrolls were found in 1979 deep inside a burial cave in a hillside known as Ketef Hinnom, west of the Old City of Jerusalem. Dr. Barkay, documenting the context of the discovery, noted that the artifacts were at the back of the tomb embedded in pottery and other material from the seventh or sixth centuries B.C. Such caves were reused for burials over many centuries. Near this tomb's entrance were artifacts from the fourth century, but nothing so recent remains in the undisturbed recesses.

It took Dr. Barkay another seven years before he felt sure enough of what he had to announce details of the discovery. Even then, for all their microscopic examination of the inscriptions at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, scholars remained frustrated by the many unreadable words and lines.

About a decade ago, Dr. Barkay enlisted the help of Dr. Zuckerman, whose team had earned a reputation for achieving the near-impossible in photographing illegible ancient documents.

Working with scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Zuckerman's group used advanced infrared imagining systems enhanced by electronic cameras and computer image-processing technology to draw out previously invisible writing on a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The researchers also pioneered electronic techniques for reproducing missing pieces of letters on documents. By examining similar letters elsewhere in the text, they were able to recognize half of a letter and reconstruct the rest of it in a scribe's own peculiar style.

"We learned a lot from work on the Dead Sea Scrolls," Dr. Zuckerman said. "But at first a processing job like this would send your computers into cardiac arrest. We had to wait for computer technology to catch up with our needs."

As the researchers said in their magazine article, the only reasonably clear aspect of the inscriptions was the Priestly Benediction. Other lines preceding or following the prayer "could barely be seen."

To get higher-definition photographs of the inscriptions, Ken Zuckerman applied an old photographer's technique called "light painting," brought up to date by the use of fiber-optic technology. He used a hand-held light in an otherwise dark room to illuminate a spot on the artifact during a time exposure. In addition, he photographed the artifact at different angles, which made the scratched letters shine in stark relief.

The next step was to convert the pictures to digital form, making possible computer processing that brought out "the subtleties of the surface almost at the micron level." This analysis was particularly successful in joining a partial letter stroke on one side of a crack with the rest of the stroke on the other side. It also enabled the researchers to restore fragments of letters to full legibility by matching them with clear letters from elsewhere in the text.

In this way, the researchers filled in more of the letters and words of the benediction itself and for the first time deciphered meaningful words and phrases in the lines preceding the benediction.

Scholars were particularly intrigued by a statement on the smaller artifact. It reads: "May h[e]/sh[e] be blessed by YHWH, the warrior/helper, and the rebuker of Evil."

Referring to God, Yahweh, as the "rebuker of Evil" is similar to language used in the Bible and in various Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars said. The phraseology is also found in later incantations and amulets associated with Israel, evidence that these artifacts were also amulets, researchers concluded.

"In the ancient world, amulets were taken quite seriously," Dr. Zuckerman said. "There's evil out there, demons, and you need protection. Having this around your neck, you are involving God's presence and protection against harm."

Dr. Esther Eshel, a professor of the Bible at Bar-Ilan and an authority on Hebrew inscriptions, said this was the earliest example of amulets from Israel. But she noted that the language of the benediction was similar to a blessing ("May he bless you and keep you") found on a jar from the eighth century B.C.

If the new findings are correct, the people who wore these amulets may have died before they had to face the limitations of their efficacy. They might then have asked in uncomprehending despair, "Where was Yahweh when the Babylonians swooped down on Jerusalem?"

Other scholars, including those previously skeptical, will soon be analyzing the improved images. In a departure from usual practices, the researchers not only published their findings in a standard print version in a journal but also as an accompanying "digital article," a CD version of the article and the images to allow scholars to examine and manipulate the data themselves.

The research group said, "As far as we are aware, this is the first article to be done in this fashion, but it certainly will not be the last."

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Daily Telegraph Redoes the Dov Gruner Tale

Following a new reminder in the Daily Telegraph that Israel had sold weapons to Argentina at the time of the Falklands War, and the repetition of the claim that Menachem Begin had done so to revenge the hanging of Dov Gruner by the British Mandatory regime in Palestine in 1947 (see below), this letter appeared:

The Falklands secret

SIR – However important the supply of Israeli weapons may have been to the Galtieri junta in the Falklands War, it was nothing to the boost Argentine capabilities would have been given, had another vendor – Britain – succeeded in concluding a massive arms sale just over a decade earlier.

The deal that Denis Healey as defence secretary pushed so hard to achieve (beyond the limits of legality), would have rendered victory for the Falklands Task Force impossible.

The package, put together in the mid-Sixties, would have supplied two Sea Dart frigates, nine Canberra bombers, two Oberon-class attack submarines, a nuclear reactor and, most significantly, given subsequent events, a dozen Harrier GR1 V/STOL fighter-bombers.

Had the Argentine navy possessed the latter aircraft, neither the Royal Navy nor the RAF could have closed Stanley airport to fast jet operations. Confronted with air strikes from two directions, the Task Force’s position would have been tactically untenable.

The deal was thwarted by pure chance. In 1967 a foot-and-mouth epidemic was triggered by a batch of Argentine lamb that infected livestock near Oswestry. Buenos Aires retaliated against the Ministry of Agriculture’s ban on Argentine meat imports by cancelling the arms contract.

Despite Healey’s efforts to strong-arm the Cabinet into breaking British and international health legislation, Harold Wilson was persuaded (by Fred Peart, the agriculture minister, and Sir Solly Zuckerman, the Cabinet scientific adviser) to uphold the ban.

As a result, although the sale of the Canberras went through and two Type 42 destroyers were eventually substituted for the frigates, the Task Force did not have to face aircraft as capable as its own, operating at close range rather than from the mainland.

An Argentine pilot, shot down by a Sea Harrier, later lamented that things would have been different had his own air force had an aircraft like that, little realising that the big secret of the Falklands War was that they very nearly did.

Hadrian Jeffs
Norwich

The Telegraph story by David Blair, Chief Foreign Correspondent reads, in part:

Israel sold weapons to Argentina at the height of the Falklands War in 1982, according to newly declassified Foreign Office files.

British diplomats cited evidence that Israel had supplied the Argentine military junta with arms that were used against the Task Force during the campaign to liberate the islands.Israeli military exports before the war included the Skyhawk jets that would later be used to bomb British warships, killing dozens of soldiers, sailors and marines. Four British warships were sunk by bombs dropped from Skyhawks, including RFA Sir Galahad, a troop carrier that was set ablaze while anchored in Bluff Cove, killing 48 sailors and soldiers. Simon Weston, the badly burned veteran, was among the survivors. Another four ships were damaged by Skyhawks.

A memorandum from C.W. Long, then head of the Near East and North Africa Department at the Foreign Office, states: “Israel was one of the few countries to supply Argentina with arms during the Falklands conflict and has continued to do so.”

The document is filed alongside a copy of an article from a specialist journal stating that Israel had sold Skyhawk jets to Argentina’s air force before the Falklands War.
In his book, Operation Israel, the Argentine journalist Hernan Dobry writes that Israel provided the spare parts and long range fuel tanks needed to keep these aircraft in action against the Task Force. When British diplomats confronted their Israeli counterparts with evidence of arms sales, they were met with blanket denials. 
The official history of the Falklands War, written by Lawrence Freedman, states: “British troops entering Port Stanley at the end of the war came across Israeli equipment.” 

Menachem Begin, then Israel’s prime minister, had begun his career as commander of the Irgun, the Jewish underground which fought the British in Palestine in the 1940s.

A fellow Irgun fighter, Dov Gruner, was hanged by the British in 1947. In Operation Israel, Mr Dobry suggests Begin saw arming Galtieri as a way of exacting revenge against Britain. After authorising the sale of weapons during the Falklands War, Begin reportedly said: “Dov up there is going to be happy with the decision.”

In response, the following letter was sent but seems not to have been published:

Sirs,

 Your story on declassified Foreign Office files relating to Israel having sold weapons to Argentina at height of Falklands War (Aug. 24) also includes an unsubstantiated ("reportedly said") reference to Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin supposedly seeking to exact revenge for the hanging by British Mandatory authorities in 1947 of an Irgun fighter.
Israel, like France, an ally of England, indeed sold weapons to Argentina, and had done so for some time prior to the Falklands hostilities, a policy initiated by a previous Israel government, one not affiliated to the Irgun three decades earlier. Incidentally, many would think France's Exocet did much more damage to British forces. Some think Israel did sell arms at the suggestion of the United States so as to avoid Argentina turning to Russia. Britain, it should be taken into the historical perspective, had for many years sold weapons to Israel's enemies among Arab states and also provided them with training.
Prime Minister Begin's response to this incident was that Israel had signed contracts and would not renounce its obligations. In an interview on May 10, 1982, Israel's Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir replied to a question on the Falkland crisis and said, "Ever since the crisis broke out, therefore, we have not gone through with any new arms sales to Argentina. As you know, Israel…has sold weapons to Argentina. Now we have no interest in getting involved in that crisis."
  Yisrael MedadDirector, Information & Educational ResourcesMenachem Begin Heritage Center6, Nahon StreetJerusalem 94110ISRAEL

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Israel's 1977 Elections CIA Intelligence Memo

A collection of more than 250 previously classified CIA documents, totaling over 1,400 pages, including some 150 that are being released for the first time, were uploaded recently.  

These documents cover the period from January 1977 through March 1979 and were produced by the CIA to support the Carter administration’s diplomatic efforts leading up to President Carter’s negotiations with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David in September 1978. The declassified documents detail diplomatic developments from the Arab peace offensive and President Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem through the regionwide aftermath of Camp David.

From a file  dated February 1977:



In this CIA documents, an early February 1977 Intelligence Memorandum analyses the upcoming election in Israel. Most of the document's details are devoted to the Labor Alignment and the "key judgments" include "a victory by the ruling Labor Alignment is by no means ensured…the Labour Party will, at best, lose some seats". 

Most interestingly, "a growing possibility" is a Labor and right-wing Likud bloc "national unity government".  Due to Yigal Yadin's Democratic Movement for Change, the report identifies "serious inroads into Labor's traditional strength". The result of this is that the Labor Alignment "is at present running not better that even with, and may be trailing" the Likud. As such, the final election "scenario" is a "government of the right led by Likud with Begin as prime minister".  

If this occurs, the report sees that "at a minimum, strong and sustained US pressure would be needed to extract concessions from a Begin government."

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On the King David's 70th Anniversary: Was There A Warning?

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on the offices of the Mandate for Palestine secretariat and the command post of the British Army in the country located in the southern wing of the King David Hotel, the five floors having been already requisitioned some seven years earlier.

Going through papers, I found this letter, published in the early 1980s, attesting to the fact that, indeed, the hotel staff had been warned of the impending explosion:




A previous treatment.
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