Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Abe Foxman Recalls Jabotinsky and Begin

In his JPost blog, Abe Foxman recalls what he learned as a young Betari in New York:-

...Most significantly, the efforts by some on the right to paint these laws as consistent with Likud ideology are egregiously off the mark. Indeed, those who initiate these laws are doing great damage to the nationalist cause they espouse.

A little history is in order. When Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and then Menachem Begin created and built Revisionist Zionism, they were often accused by the Zionist establishment as not only being extreme nationalists but of being anti-democratic. Some suggested they were Zionist “fascists” in the making. Indeed, when Begin was elected prime minister in 1977, there were those on the left who implied that Israeli democracy was at risk.

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. The very fact that Likud came to power after 30 years of Labor’s dominance of the Israeli political system was a sign of Israel’s democracy strengthening and maturing. Whatever one thought about their broader nationalist views, and clearly, the arguments about territory continue to this day, the charge that the Revisionists, and later the Likud leadership, were anti-democratic was inaccurate and insidious. Prime Minister Begin, consistent with the views of his mentor Jabotinsky, did everything to strengthen democratic values, free speech, free courts and free expression.

For decades, Likud, representing the mainstream right, has been a living example that nationalism and democracy can co-exist in a healthy and harmonious relationship. Indeed, as strong defenders of Israel’s democratic values, the right was more able to make its case for nationalist foreign policies. Whether one agreed with them or not, the case could not be made that they were undermining democracy at home at the same time. While the left may have claimed that nationalism and anti-democracy were linked, they had no basis for that assertion.

Now the introduction of a series of laws that in their totality have the feel of restricting democratic values is making the early politicized criticisms of the left seem relevant.

From Our Files: Letter to Washington Post

December 12, 2000
The Editor
The Washington Post
Washington, D.C.

In a recent article, former President Jimmy Carter claims, in regard to UN Security Council Resolution 242, that “Prime Minister Begin ultimately acknowledged its applicability in all its parts”, ("For Israel, Land or Peace", Washington Post, Nov. 26,2000). He furthermore writes that violence in the Middle East continues, this due to “an underlying reason…that some Israeli leaders continue…building settlements in occupied territory”. The dispute between Mr. Carter and Mr. Menachem Begin over these issues is well-known. We wish to present a different picture of those diplomatic concerns.

As William B. Quandt makes clear in his volume, “Camp David: Peacemaking and Politics”, American officials were in dispute with Mr. Begin over the interpretation of 242 and its relevance to portions of the Jewish people’s historic homeland in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Quandt, present at Camp David in 1978, notes quite plainly on page 246 that Mr. Begin, at Camp David, rejected the applicability of 242 and only accepted the position that while it could serve as an instrument for negotiations, it could not apply in an obligatory fashion to the results of any final agreement.

According to archival material reposited at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Mr. Begin appeared before an audience of over 2,500 persons on September 20, 1978 three days after the end of the Camp David conference. Discussing the 242 resolution, he said, inter alia:

“‘We were asked to sign a document, in which at least four times the words appeared: “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war…we explained to them [the Americans] that these words are taken from the preamble to Resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council of November 1967…And now you ask us to sign a document with those false and falsifying words: “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory,” as a result of such a war, of legitimate self-defense, of saving a nation surrounded and attacked and threatened with annihilation?…for eight days, we heard from our American friends, that if that phrase is not included in the document, no agreement is possible…We refused. On behalf of the People of Israel, on behalf of the Jewish People, in the name of simple of human justice and dignity, above all, on behalf of truth, we refused to give this signature for those words.

“Ultimately, a talk took place between the President and myself on Wednesday night, the eighth day of our deliberations. I asked the President to lend me an attentive ear. I told him: “It is going to be, Mr. President, one of the most serious talks I have ever held with you since we met in July last year in the White House…[and]I concluded this passage of my words to the President of the United States with a simple statement, taken, yes indeed, from the Bible. And I told him: ‘Mr. President: Let my right hand forget its cunning before I sign such a document’.

Mr. Begin’s view is upheld also by a recent scholarly publication, “Heroic Diplomacy” by Kenneth W. Stein. Professor Stein records on page 253 that “the preamble mentioned Resolution 242 by name…but did not say that it applied to all fronts. If it had, Begin would never have signed”. On page 231, Stein writes that Begin opposed any allocation of Judea and Samaria to foreign sovereignty, as Carter understood Resolution 242 to dictate, and that the issue was “not on the negotiating table”.

As for the issue of settlements, Quandt on page 253, makes it clear that Mr. Carter made a mistake and, in fact, misinterpreted Mr. Begin’s position regarding any freeze. He quotes from Mr. Carters’ own book, “The Blood of Abraham”, page 169, that Carter had made a serious omission in not clarifying Mr. Begin’s position. Stein, too, on page 255, attests to the fact that Carter failed to adequately understand Begin’s lack of commitment on the settlement issue and left the matter in ambiguity. It should be emphasized that all Israel’s governments since have adopted Mr. Begin’s principled approach that Resolution 242 does not apply to the totality of all the territories Israel administers as a result of its defensive actions in 1967 against Arab aggression.

We trust these references will contribute to a more balanced view of diplomatic history and what transpired at the first Camp David conference.


Harry Hurwitz,
The Menachem Begin Heritage Center,


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moshe Arens on Democracy and Begin


Of 'dictators' and Israeli democracy By Moshe Arens

Was Franklin Roosevelt, that great democratic president, who led America to victory over Nazi Germany, a dictator? That was the accusation leveled against him during his second term of office in 1937 when he tried to alter the composition of the Supreme Court that was declaring some of his New Deal legislation unconstitutional. The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, the legislation he tried to pass through Congress, was referred to as the "Court-packing Plan" by his opponents.

The bill was intended to give the president the power to add additional judges to the court, whose conservative majority was striking down some of Roosevelt's legislation designed to bring the country out of the depression. U.S. Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, and the legislation proposed by Roosevelt was intended to give him the authority to appoint additional judges in case sitting judges had reached the age of 70 years and six months, thus overriding the conservative majority of the court. The legislation never passed Congress, and as it turned out was not needed after one of the Supreme Court judges retired.

As is well known, judges to the U.S. Supreme Court are appointed by the president for life, making it essentially a political process - conservative presidents appointing conservative judges, and liberal presidents appointing liberal judges. The composition of the court at any given time is the result of a rather random process depending on the results of presidential elections and the longevity of the sitting judges. Despite the political nature of the Supreme Court appointments the court is held in high regard by the public.

This comes to mind as we watch the attempts in the Knesset to influence the composition of the Israeli Supreme Court, and the charges by the left that the Knesset majority is tampering with the democratic nature of the State of Israel. Even the insult "fascist" is hurled at some of the MKs now and then in the frenzy of the political debate. It is no more appropriate than the charge at the time that Roosevelt wanted to be a dictator. Whether Jabotinsky or Begin would have supported the suggested changes we will never know and is hardly relevant to the issue in question.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Begin's Political Philosphy Manipulated

In Haaretz:

By Begin's logic, the Palestinians should have a state

In "The Revolt," his seminal depiction of the Jewish resistance against British rule in Palestine, Irgun chief and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin often returns to his interrogation at the hands of the Soviets. These references apparently are intended to counter a contemporary communist argument raised during these interrogations, that the Zionist movement was a hoax, a "puppet show," meant to divert attention from the Jews' revolutionary role in Europe and turn them into a tool for British imperialism in the Middle East.

...Begin, of course, repeatedly balks at these claims, referencing centuries of Jewish craving to return to their historical homeland and flee from the kind of persecution and massacre made manifest at that time by the camps and furnaces of Europe.

Later, Begin repeatedly cites the deep chasm running between British imperialist objectives – for which, he said, they were more than willing to sacrifice the Jews – and the very real, heartfelt Jewish desire for freedom from both persecution and foreign rule.

In one famous metaphor, Begin tells his Soviet interrogator that the need to establish a Jewish state was not a purely theoretical ambition, one motivated by either a revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary movement, but was like saving a family from a burning house. In other words, urgent and real.

Begin is asking his Soviet interrogator to disregard for a moment the political powers at play, undoubtedly necessary for the creation of Israel, and look the hopes and dreams of real people: People that care for their children, that cry out against injustice, that find life hard, if not sometimes impossible, when lived under the specter of constant foreign occupation, exile, and persecution.

Yet as convincing as Begin's arguments were, the tendency (typified here by the Soviets) to subjugate human needs with purely geopolitical considerations have far from disappeared from the Middle East. Indeed, they have become the official line of the State of Israel.

Objections to the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state often run the gamut of the kind of conspiracy theories realized by Begin's interrogator, opinions made strikingly evident since peace talks with the Palestinian Authority lost momentum (if indeed such momentum ever existed) late last year.

"A Palestinian state would function as an Iranian proxy," one version of this argument goes. In another: "A Palestinian state would in effect act as a place holder, allowing weapons and terrorist groups to flow uninterrupted, putting larger cities such as Tel Aviv in range of rocket fire and closing crucial buffer zones protecting central Israel from bombing attacks."

These arguments...have served to delegitimize the entire Palestinian quest for self-determination.

The actual argument, similar to the Communist claim, is that the Palestinian desire for a state is not genuine...The Palestinians, they say, seek a stronghold - one erected by faceless Arabs. And once completed, one which could be filled with the kind of faceless Arabs that seek Israel's destruction, if not the annihilation of the entire Jewish people.

The beauty of Begin's nuanced commentary on the criticism of Zionism, what I would term his turn toward the human, seems completely lost on proponents of the aforementioned positions. The consequence of this blindness to a facet of nationhood so close to our own is - as the unshakable leader of the dream of an Israel on both sides of the Jordan River must have understood - tantamount to a loss of humanity. It is a faceless doctrine that crushes individual lives.

...The dangers of foreign influence, whether Iranian or other, are of course real. They are, however, as real to us as the fear of Western imperialism and exploitation was real to every other country in our region over Israel's creation.

To understand that, finally, is to let go of the fears of an Iranian outpost. Not because those fears are unfounded, but because they are not what should determine how Israel treats its neighbors. To mistrust those who, in good times and bad, live alongside Israel and share its fate is to perpetuate those nefarious motivations for Israel's foundation, to prefer blind dogma over the real and the human.

This is something Begin understood, and his nearsighted followers of today do not. We must live with those who share our fate, not rely on a culture that while instrumental in establishing Israel, should have been discarded immediately after. And that is why the former prime minister remains the only Israeli leader to sign a peace deal that actually had substance, both in terms of Israel's integration in the region and its security.

Begin's vision should help us understand that as long as we refuse to come to terms with both our own desires and those of the people around us and among us, we shall never be fully here. That to be fully here is to sever the umbilical cord of dogma and start - as Begin himself did in 1979 - to live with our neighbors, whether they are truly the proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran or not.


Netanyahu: Begin My Mentor of Democracy

As reported:

'As long as I'm in power Israel will be democratic'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday defended a controversial amendment to the libel law that would raise the court imposed penalty on libel, saying "no one will tell the media what to write and what to investigate."

"I was raised on the values of [former prime minister Menachem] Begin and [Ze'ev] Jabotinsky... Israel will continue to be a strong democracy," Netanyahu said during the weekly Likud faction meeting in Jerusalem, adding, "Freedom of expression will exist in all parts of society."

Responding to criticism from the opposition that called recent legislation anti-democratic, the prime minister said he will ensure that Israel remains democratic.

"As long as I'm in power, Israel will continue to be a democracy," Army Radio quoted Netanyahu as saying.

BBC1 Interviews Former British Trooper in Mandate Palestine

In the UK Chronicle, we find this:

THE conflict that raged in Palestine between 1945 and 1948 resulted in an unbelievable loss of British lives – a total of 784 died.

We were pleased to be allocated seven minutes in BBC1’s remembrance week programmes. The producer chose the very moving story of one veteran – a survivor of the mining of the overnight train to Haifa on February 29 1948.

The explosion, which killed 28 British servicemen and injured 31 more, was the responsibility of Menachem Begin’s Stern gang.

A survivor, Aircraftsman Charles Speight, who arrived in Palestine at the start of the Arab-Israeli war, escaped death in that incident by an amazing stroke of luck.

That was in the morning. In the afternoon, he was ambushed by armed Arabs, who took their weapons and rendered their vehicles immobile.

That was typical of the conflict at that stage. Begin wanted to kill Britons, the Arabs wanted our weapons.

Charles is a member of The Palestine Veterans Association and we are building an archive and constantly looking for more members.

If you were in Palestine during those turbulent years and would like more information, please make contact.

ERIC LOWE, 20 Treloar Road, Hayling Island, Hants. PO11 9SE. 02392 467181.

This comment was left there:

a) the attack of the troop train was an operation of the Lechi (or Stern Group). Menachem Begin commanded the Irgun.

b) the train was attacked near Rechovot, south of Tel Aviv, not near Haifa as could be implied from the wording.

c) Begin did not want to randomnly "kill Britons" and always warned of attacks as in the case of the King David attack and dozens of others, in a war waged for the liberation of the Jewish national home from what turned into an oppressive British Mandatory regime and I am specifically referring to the blockade on Jewish immigrants during and after the Holocaust.

d) the immediate reason for the attack was the car-bombing in Jerusalem's Ben-Yehuda Street by two British army troopers who had gone over to the Arabs for either pay or out of identification. Their bomb killed over 50 Jews and destroyed a building in downtown Jerusalem.

Here's the first page report from the Palestine Post of March 1:


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Launch on The Likud Princes

From Fay Greer Cashman:

They may be passé and no longer as representative of their legacy as they used to be, but the Likud princes, or at least the image they convey, still have a magnetic effect on Likudniks of the old school, who flocked to the Jabotinsky Institute for the launch of Gil Samsonov's book The Likud Princes. Among those present was Likud diehard Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who said that the generation of revolt that brought in two prime ministers, numerous government ministers and people holding important positions had an undoubted impact on the development of the nation. But that generation has faded out, and the generation of the princes of Likud has dispersed. The new Likud is not committed to the ethos of Herut, Jabotinsky and Begin. Also present were Yehiel Kadishai, the longtime confidant and bureau chief of Menachem Begin; Arye Naor, who served as Begin's cabinet secretary; Eitan Haber, who was Yitzhak Rabin's bureau chief and other prominent figures. Samsonov said that there never was and never will be a generation more committed to the Zionist vision than that of the generation of revolt.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Begin Initiated Liberation of Jerusalem in 1967

From a report in Israel Hayom:-

Dr. Yaacov Lozowick, the head of the Israel State Archives, addressed the cabinet to offer a report on the progress his department has made in its ambitious project to digitize the national archives, from cabinet minutes to documents dating back to pre-state Israel, including the British Mandate and the Ottoman era...Lozowick, a former history teacher and scholar, read the protocols from two high-stakes cabinet sessions: one from the War of Independence in 1949, and one dating 18 years later, from the Six-Day War.

...On Dec. 4, 1949, as the U.N. was about to take up the issue of Jerusalem, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion convened his cabinet to discuss Israel's reaction should the international community deny Israel sovereignty over recently captured parts of west Jerusalem. By then, Israeli forces had been fighting for almost a year against Arab militias at home and invading Arab armies from neighboring states who sought to frustrate the Zionist effort to establish a state in accordance with the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan.

In a cable to then Foreign Minister Moshe Sharet, Ben-Gurion informed his subordinate: "I shall convene the government tomorrow morning and propose that we issue a Knesset resolution that Israel will not accept any form of foreign government in the Jewish parts of Jerusalem and the severance of the city from the state."

Ben-Gurion then told his foreign policy chief, "If we are faced with a choice of withdrawing from Jerusalem or opting out of the U.N., we shall choose the latter." Israel would eventually hold on to west Jerusalem, but had to wait almost 20 years before seizing control of the walled Old City, home to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.

Lozowick then went on to provide an inside look into the monumental decisions made during the early stages of the Six-Day War. On June 5, 1967, with Israeli forces already engaged in heavy fighting on the southern front with Egypt, the cabinet convened to discuss a possible maneuver to capture the Jordanian-occupied Old City of Jerusalem, after parts of it had been bombed.

"I suggest the government approves a resolution to liberate the city," then Minister without portfolio and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin said in the meeting. Begin, a fierce opponent of the ruling party, chose to enter an emergency unity government as war became imminent, putting aside differences during one of Israel's most challenging periods. But Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was wary of being embroiled in another front. "Before I left Tel Aviv for Jerusalem I talked with Maj. Gen. Yigal Yadin [a special adviser to the prime minister], and raised that option with him. He told me that this requires more thought and discussion. I suggest we put off a decision on this matter for now," Eshkol said, according to the archival material.

While calling an Israeli move against Jordanian forces morally just, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Yigal Allon advocated that a small group, the Political-Security Cabinet, make a final decision on the issue. But Begin further implored his fellow cabinet members to endorse his proposal. "I whole-heartedly ask the prime minister to add this as an item on the agenda and make a decision. We are faced with an unprecedented window of opportunity for a redemption of the Old City," he said according to the documents...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Begin Reflected in Issues of the Day

Several articles have appeared in today's Israel Hayom daily on Begin:

Begin, champion of the rule of law
by Aviad HaCohen

Menachem Begin did not fear the rule of law. He liked it and respected it. Perhaps because he was a leader who spent most of his days in the desert of the opposition, head of a minority that was persecuted and denounced by the regime (Ben-Gurion famously delineated the boundaries of legitimate political parties in the early years of the state when he said "without Herut or Maki," referring to two political parties of the day), until he eventually became prime minister.

Now, in our time, there are those who seek to recreate Begin in their own image, painting him as a fierce opponent of the Supreme Court and the principle of the supremacy of the law. They would be well advised to re-read his writings and the history books.

Begin knew very well, and made sure to emphasize whenever he could, in writing and in speeches, that the rule of law - unlike the rule of flesh and blood - is a guarantee of a properly functioning democratic regime, and a central factor in the protection of the rights of minorities.

It is no accident that after the High Court ordered the evacuation of an illegal settlement, it was Menachem Begin of all people who took it upon himself, although he clearly did not want to, to uphold the authority of the ruling. On his first visit to Alon Moreh, he uttered his unforgettable statement, which entered the national lexicon, that "there are judges in Jerusalem."

Former Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak's years as the government's legal advisor were turbulent. Barak was not deterred from the thunder breaking loudly around him, and used legal means to pursue the loftiest nobles, according to the famous "Buzaglo test" [which posited that the powerful and connected should receive the same treatment at the hands of government institutions as the simplest of people].

One of Barak's greatest supporters was Menachem Begin. While many in Begin's party sought to have Barak, who had been appointed by the previous Alignment [the precursor to the Labor party] government, removed, Begin not only left him in his position, but even made him a full partner in the diplomatic negotiations at Camp David (and not only on the legal side), when it was already clear that he was headed to the Supreme Court.

Later, Barak said of Begin that any time he would bring a legal matter before him, be it on an internal social matter or external diplomatic one, Begin would show himself to be someone for whom "the rule of law is in his blood and the supremacy of the law is in his soul."

Begin responded similarly when his government's first legal advisor, Y.S. Shapira, asked to attend cabinet meetings. By ordering that the government's legal adviser be present at all cabinet meetings, the first Likud prime minister did what no Mapai government had done before him. This did not prevent him from disagreeing with the legal adviser's position.

One of the famous disagreements between the two related to amnesty for Yehoshua Ben-Zion, the managing director of Israel-British Bank, who was convicted of embezzlement. Begin strongly supported granting Ben-Zion amnesty, while Barak objected to it.

Begin was one of the first to demand appreciation for "the supremacy of the law." Beyond the legal education he received at the University of Warsaw, Begin knew that were it not for fear of the government, men would swallow each other alive. Except for one exception when he led the masses against the reparations agreement with Germany, Begin always called for respecting the government's authority, the law and the court's judgements, even when he disagreed with them.

For this same reason, Begin also exhibited leadership during the traumatic Altalena crisis. Despite his considering it an act of tragic foolishness, Begin called on all of his colleagues to act with restraint and refrained from using force or violating the law against the government's actions. This is also how he acted during the decades that he spent as part of the opposition. His words were harsh, but always within the framework of the law.

Longing for Jabotinsky and Begin
by Yaakov Ahimeir

It is doubtful that all Likud voters have studied Vladimir Jabotinsky's doctrine. It is likely that in the eyes of the current generation of Likud adherents, "Menachem Begin" is just a name, just like the names of streets in Israeli cities. But these two, Begin and Jabotinsky, would probably turn over in their graves if they heard the rumors that their names have become a symbol and a paradigm for democracy and liberalism.

Reading the statements of contemporary political rivals, you would think that Jabotinsky is no less than "Montesquieu No. 1" and Begin "Montesquieu No. 2," after the French Enlightenment-era political thinker famous for his theories on class division and the separation of power. In short, we have been overcome with nostalgia; but it is nostalgia for two names that were once, and still are, abhorred. Politicians and commentators who once cursed Jabotinsky and Begin are today praising their names. How did Israeli television anchor and documentary filmmaker Haim Yavin put it? A revolution!

Some of today's politicians have even been named as the successors of Jabotinsky and Begin, starting with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and continuing with Ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin, Limor Livnat, Gideon Sa'ar and Michael Eitan. How can that be? After all, they themselves remember how in their parents house, throughout their youth, these two names were synonyms for poor management of the state. But even when those two names were slandered, they were the same Jabotinsky and Begin that today are showered with praises.

Few truly remember the invectives hurled at the two: Jabotinsky's "insufferable" militarism or Begin, who until the electoral revolution in 1977 was a "war instigator," for example. That is just the tip of the iceberg of negative characteristics associated with the two. Today, if their ears are perked up in heaven, if they are listening to the complimentary descriptions of them, there is no doubt that the two, experienced with fierce struggles, are soberly saying to themselves: "After all, we know from our own experience in public life that our names are only used down below at times when there are political quarrels between two rival camps."

These two names are certainly invoked to gain points in the struggles over proposed legislation. Any serious historian could examine Jabotinsky and Begin and find both light and shadows in their intellectual and political personalities. Indeed, such is the case with anyone who truly made history. Even Thomas Jefferson, an enlightened liberal who designed the American spirit, was also a slave-owner.

How Begin's legacy was distorted
ny Giora Goldberg

The dispute over the judiciary's authority has increasingly been the subject of public debate, now more so than in the past. The recent proposed legislation over the issue has deepened the controversy. Among the various arguments that have been raised, particularly fascinating are those based on former Prime Minister Menachem Begin's legacy. Begin's name has been invoked in a manipulative manner without anyone knowing exactly what "supremacy of the law" -- a concept the former prime minister wrote about when he was part of the opposition in the 1950s -- actually is.

Begin's political wisdom, coupled with his strong sense of justice, is what inspired him. As an oppositionist, he was well aware that the strengthening of the courts may indeed sometimes make for short-term political gains. However, as a parliamentarian and long-term national leader, he knew that judicial activism could also lead to the weakening of the state, the destruction of its democratic rule and a distortion of the people's will.

All those who connect Begin with judicial activism either do not know a thing about his legacy or simply distort it. In that same essay on the "supremacy of the law," Begin opined that judges are appointed "either by the executive branch or by the legislative branch, or by both of them together." There is no mention of involvement by judges or lawyers in the body responsible for the appointment of judges.

It was possible to oppose the recently proposed legislation according to which supreme court judges should undergo a parliamentary hearing before being appointed, but it is impossible to argue that this legislation goes against Begin's legacy. His position is closer to the proponents of this idea rather than to its opponents.

It is important to deepen our understanding of Begin's doctrines regarding the relationship between the different government authorities. Begin expressed support for granting the Supreme Court authority to interpret laws passed by the Knesset, based on the principles contained in the Basic Laws of Israel. If the court, for example, finds that a law passed by the Knesset contradicts a provision within the Basic Laws, the court has the authority to reject it.

That is, the Knesset, not the Supreme Court, is the sole constitutional authority. After the Knesset creates an official constitution, in which it will be established that the court has the authority to interpret laws according to this constitution, only then will the court have the authority to do so.

A "constitutional revolution" -- in the style of former Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak -- in fact, collides with Begin's legacy.

Judicial activism and even a constitutional revolution can be supported, but the invocation of Begin's legacy to promote these concepts constitutes a distortion of his legacy.

Those who are not convinced by this argument, are invited to read Begin's article on the "supremacy of the law," which is stored with dignity and honor in the website of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

On the Begin Ethos

Rivlin: New Likud not committed to Herut ethos

Knesset speaker joins politicians, leftists calling out against legislation aimed at limiting ability of non-profit groups to raise money from foreign bodies. Labor leader says Likud distancing itself from 'enlightened world

Speaking at a Jabotinsky Institute event on Sunday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that "the generation of Herut princes is divided. The new Likud isn't committed to the ethos of Herut, (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky and (Menachem) Begin."

Rivlin was criticizing a ministerial committee's decision to approve legislation aimed at limiting the ability of non-profit organizations in Israel to receive foreign funding.

The legislation is expected to mainly hurt leftist Israeli groups, which rely heavily on donations from abroad. "The Likud princes are isolated in their homes. When a Likud prince goes out to defend freedom of expression, he is seen as detached from reality," the Knesset speaker said.

The right-wing Herut movement, which was founded by the late prime minister Begin in 1948, was the ideological standard-bearer of the Revisionist movement. It formally merged into the Likud party in 1988.

Addressing the social protests in Israel, Rivlin said, "If Likud strays from (Israel's deep-rooted principles), it will not endure."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reuters on the "Begin Doctrine"

In an INSIGHT report:

Has Iran ended Israel's Begin Doctrine?

Menachem Begin did not pull his punches. In 1981, as work neared completion on an Iraqi nuclear reactor that Israel believed would produce plutonium for warheads, the Israeli prime minister dispatched eight F-16 bombers to destroy the plant. Begin later said that the raid was proof his country would "under no circumstances allow the enemy to develop weapons of mass-destruction against our people".

The event defined a strategy that became known as the "Begin Doctrine" and is best summed up by the phrase "the best defence is forceful preemption."

...The spin of the Islamic republic's uranium centrifuges stirs mortal fear in the Jewish state. In defiance of western pressure to curb the project's bomb-making potential, Iran has pushed on with its nuclear programme, saying it has no hostile designs. The International Atomic Energy Agency will say this week that Iran now has the ability to build a nuclear weapon, the Washington Post has reported. Israeli officials have long hinted they may launch a preemptive strike.

That threat has taken on fresh intensity in the two years since Netanyahu -- a right-wing ideologue like Begin -- assumed office. Media speculation that Israel might launch a unilateral strike has surged again in the past two weeks.

...Interviews in recent months with government and military officials -- most speaking on condition of anonymity -- and independent experts suggest that Israel prefers caution over a unilateral strike against the Iranians...Netanyahu's own circumspection is instructive.

...As opposition leader in 2005, he told Israel Radio that in dealing with Iran he would "pursue the legacy" of Begin's "bold and courageous move" against Iraq. But as prime minister he has been less explicit -- both in public and, to judge by leaked U.S. diplomatic cables dated as recently as 2010, in closed-door meetings he and aides held with visiting American delegates. Instead, Israel has pushed its demand that world powers stiffen sanctions on Tehran and that the United States provide the vanguard of any last-ditch military move.

"The military option is not an empty threat, but Israel should not leap to lead it. The whole thing should be led by the United States, and as a last resort," Deputy Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel's Army Radio.

The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment directly on whether Netanyahu felt bound by the Begin Doctrine regarding Iran... was [Minister Dan] Meridor who recommended "defence" as a fourth pillar of Israeli national security in a secret memorandum he authored on behalf of the government in 2006. That report added to the three doctrinal "D's" set out by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, soon after the country's founding in a 1948 war with neighbouring Arabs: detect enemies' threats, deter them with the promise of painful retribution and, if hostilities nonetheless ensue, defeat them quickly on their own turf.

"This was something counter-intuitive for Israel, especially for the military. Israelis like to be on the attack, not on the defensive," Meridor said.

While he declined to discuss the prospect of military action against Iran, Meridor distanced himself from the idea that the Begin Doctrine commits Israel to such a course.

"I am not sure what people mean when they use this term. In any event, there is no contradiction between any attack doctrine and a defence doctrine. They are complementary. If the attack doesn't does not solve the problem, then you need to be able to defend yourself."

...Like Meridor, [INSS scholar and retired Israeli general Shlomo] Brom dismissed the suggestion that the Iraqi reactor strike set a precedent for a potential Israeli strike on Iran. He notes Israel's decision not to take military action against suspected chemical weapons programmes of Syria and Iraq has already undermined the Begin Doctrine.

...Keeping the world guessing as to how -- and if -- a confrontation might happen is in itself part of Israel's strategy.

"I hope that the Iranians see an Israeli conspiracy in this," said Yaalon...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

YouTube Clip on Betar Jerusalem Football Team Visit

It's here.


The Historical Menachem Begin in An Egyptain Newspaper

Opinion: The Gazette and the 1952 revolution (222)

By Sami El-Shahed - The Egyptian Gazette
Saturday, November 5, 2011

The partition plan was a compromise position based on two other plans, giving more or less land to each state. Political pressure by proponents of partition was used to get the UN to pass the partition proposal. Most of the Jews accepted the proposal, in particular the Jewish Agency, which was the Jewish state-in-formation.

The more extreme nationalist Jewish groups like Menachem Begin’s Irgun Tsvai Leumi and Yitzhak Shamir’s LEHI (known as the Stern Gang), which had been fighting the British, rejected it. They were so fanatical in their demand for a Jewish state (from the Nile to the Euphrates) that in the 1940’s, they came up with a novel idea about foes of the Jews.

Hitler was a ‘persecutor’ of Jews, but the ‘enemy’ of Jews was the power that occupied Palestine, the British. There would always be persecutors until Jews vanquished ‘the enemy’ and took over their rightful turf.

However, numerous records indicate the joy of Palestine’s Jewish inhabitants as they attended to the UN session voting for the division proposal. Up to this day, Israeli history books mention November 29 (the date of this session) as the most important date in the Israel’s acquisition of independence. However, Jews did criticise the lack of territorial continuity for the Jewish state.

The Arab leadership opposed the plan, arguing that it violated the rights of the majority of the people in Palestine, which at the time was 67% non-Jewish (1,237,000) and 33% Jewish (608,000). They criticised the amount and quality of land given to Israel. The Jews had been offered 55 per cent of the land when they only owned 7%.

The population for the proposed Jewish state would be 498,000 Jews and 325,000 non-Jews. The population for the proposed Arab State would be 807,000 non-Jews and 10,000 Jews. The population for the proposed International Zone would be 105,000 non-Jews and 100,000 Jews.

Arabs also feared that the Jewish state would be a stepping stone for further advancement; this view is supported by statements from David Ben Gurion and other leaders recently discovered by Israel’s New Historians and other independent scholars.

As early as 1938, David Ben-Gurion declared: “After we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine”. In 1948, Menachem Begin said, “The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognised. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel, All of it. And forever”.

Subsequent events had shown Israel expanding primarily through land conquered in successive wars which, it alleged, were intended ‘to eliminate Israel’, and thus there was a ‘military necessity, to create a buffer zone against future invasions.’


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Begin and Jerusalem

From a Haaretz story by Shay Fogelman:

What Israeli, U.S. leaders of 1977 hoped would be Jerusalem's fate

A previously unpublished transcript of a meeting between Israeli and U.S. leaders in Washington on December 17, 1977, offers a surprising revelation: Prime Minister Begin's suggestion that autonomous international religious councils would oversee Jerusalem's holy places.

A Jewish legend from the Middle Ages tells about a great rabbi, named Amnon. Rich, handsome and of distinguished lineage, he lived in Magenza (now Mainz, Germany). According to the story, which is probably apocryphal, the city's archbishop and other officials pressed Rabbi Amnon to forsake his religion and convert, but were rebuffed time after time. But one day, the tale goes, he could no longer withstand the pressure: In order to get them off his back, he said yes - but asked for a three-day extension to consult and consider the matter. Barely had the rabbi finished speaking when he grasped the depth of his sin. He went home tormented and abashed. "Because of this I shall descend to the netherworld," he apparently told his confidants, whereupon he wept and began to fast.

Three days went by, but the rabbi did not come to the archbishop's quarters, as he had promised. When cajoling and threats did not help, he was brought there by force. What is it, Amnon, asked the archbishop. Why didn't you come to me? To which the rabbi replied: I should have my tongue cut out for not having refused to do so immediately.

But the bishop thought otherwise. In his view, the rabbi's tongue had spoken well, but his legs, which had not arrived at the appointed time, were fated to be cut off. The bishop ordered first that each of the rabbi's toes be cut off at the joint; each time, his torturers asked whether he was now ready to convert. But even at the last toe, Rabbi Amnon clung to his faith.

Not long afterward, on Rosh Hashanah eve, the bleeding rabbi asked his assistants to carry him to the synagogue, and before the shofar was sounded said he wished to recite a prayer. With his last remaining strength, Rabbi Amnon uttered what is known as "Unetaneh tokef" ("Let us tell how overwhelming is the holiness of this day") - and died. Since then, this prayer has been central to the liturgy of the Days of Awe and is recited in the afternoon prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

A few weeks before Rosh Hashanah in September 1978, the legend of Rabbi Amnon from Mainz apparently acquired renewed significance. All the biographies of Prime Minister Menachem Begin relate how, during the negotiations that took place then over the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty at Camp David, he told the story of Rabbi Amnon to U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

According to his biographies, Begin was reacting to the pressure that Carter was exerting on him about the future status of Jerusalem. In testimony to the Begin Heritage Center, Yehiel Kadishai, who was Begin's personal aide and his bureau chief as prime minister, stated that Carter later told the legend to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. "After that story, no one talked to him about Jerusalem again," Kadishai said, adding unequivocally: "The subject did not come up for discussion."

Begin's ideological followers and politicians who see themselves as his successors claim that the mention of the legend of Rabbi Amnon demonstrated to President Carter that Begin was unshakable when it came to the status of unified Jerusalem as Israel's capital and that the subject, now as then, was not negotiable. In the Knesset session held in November 2007 to mark the 30th anniversary of Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud ) told the story anew. This was at the time of the Annapolis peace conference. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had put forward a secret and far-reaching plan for the internationalization of the holy places in Jerusalem, and MK Sa'ar, who was then in the opposition, saw fit to draw a connection between the two episodes. Concluding his remarks linking Rabbi Amnon and Begin, Sa'ar said, "There is a moral to the story: When you espouse a worldview, with 'red lines' and values, the other side respects them and knows that there are things you cannot be induced to forgo."

In fact, Begin's decision to use this legend in order to rebuff American pressure about Jerusalem is not self-evident. Begin was known as a wizard with words and images, a master of rhetoric and dialectic. He had a deep knowledge of Judaism, of the legends of the Jewish sages and Hasidic tales. According to Shlomo Nakdimon, who was Begin's media adviser at the time, the Americans dubbed him "the preacher" because of his frequent recourse to biblical imagery.

So it's not clear why Begin chose a story that was intended as inspiration for acts of martyrdom by German Jews during the Crusades; a story that deals mainly with regret for words of heresy, with soul-searching and matters that undermine faith. The premier could easily have come up with better examples to illustrate the strength of the Jewish people's bond to the holy city. He certainly could have found more potent allegories to demonstrate his firmness of resolve on this issue.

Some Begin biographies say that he related the legend only because Carter asked him to think about the matter and give him an answer in three days. This is not supported by the testimonies given over the years by some of those present during the talks. Indeed, several of them rejected this theory outright in interviews for this article.

A top secret document that was recently uncovered in the Israel State Archives raises a different possibility: The transcript of a conversation held between Prime Minister Begin and President Carter a few months before the Camp David meeting raises the possibility that Begin's choice of the legend of Rabbi Amnon was highly relevant - and perhaps better suited to subsequent developments than any other story.

Sensational visit

On November 9, 1977, President Anwar Sadat stunned the Egyptian People's Assembly when he announced he was ready to go to Jerusalem and discuss the terms of a peace treaty with Israel. No less stunned were the leaders of Israel and the United States, who had been looking for ways to narrow the gulf between the sides, ahead of a planned international peace conference at Geneva. Sadat's sensational visit to Jerusalem took place 10 days later. The two sides decided to launch direct negotiations, and Israel was invited to send a delegation to Ismailia for the start of the talks.

This unexpected development first prompted an urgent visit to the Middle East by Secretary of State Vance. Shuttling between Cairo and Jerusalem, he heard the leaders' impressions from the historic meeting, and offered Washington's help in advancing the peace process. In a report to President Carter summing up his meetings with Sadat and Begin, he wrote that Israel would have to moderate its positions, notably on the future of the West Bank, and with respect to the Palestinian issue.

In Vance's opinion, Begin's approach was largely unacceptable to the Egyptians. Carter was not surprised. He was well aware of the abyss that separated the sides and was concerned that the embryonic peace process would be aborted. At a meeting with Vance in Jerusalem on December 12, 1977, Begin surprisingly suggested that he visit Washington urgently in order to present to Carter new ideas which he had formulated as part of an Israel plan. The Ismailia talks were scheduled to start a week later and the Israeli leader needed American support. Vance went on to Amman, where he briefed King Hussein about this optimistic development. The American media noted this was the first time in a long while that movement toward compromise had been felt in Jerusalem.

Begin's trip to Washington was kept secret for three days, during which the prime minister held marathon meetings with cabinet ministers and advisers to formulate the Israeli blueprint for negotiations. Rumors spread rapidly after the Prime Minister's Bureau canceled Begin's participation in a number of events he had been scheduled to attend later in the week. There were also reports that Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan had held a secret meeting in a foreign country. The Prime Minister's Bureau kept mum even after the foreign media reported Begin's impending visit to Washington. On the day of his departure, December 15, 1977, the headline in Haaretz was, "Begin off to U.S. this morning; likely to meet with Sadat."

Carter tried to dampen expectations. In his previous meeting with Begin, four months earlier, he had detected no sign of compromise in the then-newly elected prime minister. At a press conference he held a day prior to the premier's arrival in Washington, Carter said that if Begin's proposals "should be far short of what I think President Sadat could accept without very serious political consequences and serious disappointment in Egypt, and the rest of the world, I would have no reticence about telling Prime Minister Begin privately, 'I just don't think this goes far enough.'" Carter added, "I have no idea what proposals, if any, Prime Minister Begin will bring to me tomorrow morning" - but noted that the prime minister had requested the meeting, so he assumed there was an important reason for it.

Haaretz wrote the next day, "Spokesmen of the White House and the State Department put an end to the persistent rumors that Mr. Begin was actually coming for a summit meeting with Sadat. But in a period of abundant surprises, no one takes denials at face value."

A senior Israeli diplomat who was part of the Begin entourage noted in his diary, "December 16, 1977: Prime minister concerned that passengers flying to New York arrive before the Sabbath."

Because of the suddenness of the visit and the tight timetable, the diplomat wrote, Begin and his entourage took a regular El Al flight to New York. The plane landed first in Washington, and only afterward, very late and very close to Shabbat, proceeded to New York with the regular passengers.

Begin arrived in Washington on the morning of Friday, December 16. Carter's diary states that after a reception held at 7:46 [A.M.] the two met privately for 53 minutes in the Oval Office. Afterward, an hour-long meeting was held with the aides of both leaders in the Cabinet Room.

Begin declared his intention to execute a withdrawal in Sinai. He was vague about the future of the settlements there, and also offered no definitive answer about his stance regarding Sharm el Sheikh, which Israel considered a strategic site. He proposed the establishment of a civil autonomy regime in the West Bank, in stages that would take place over a number of years. He also had some surprising comments about the Gaza Strip.

Following the meeting, short statements were given to the media. The messages were positive. The atmosphere was optimistic. President Carter's diary notes that an hour later, he held a four-minute phone conversation with President Sadat.

Modeled on the Vatican?

The delegations met again the next day, immediately after the end of the Sabbath. According to the transcript of that meeting - which is being made public here for the first time - Carter began by noting that the public response to the previous day's declarations had been enthusiastic. He told Begin that Sadat, too, had expressed satisfaction in the brief conversation they'd had.

Begin opened his remarks by congratulating Carter in Hebrew on the occasion of his wedding anniversary that day. Carter thanked him, and the prime minister went on to relate that he had met with a number of senators, who were pleased by the progress in the negotiations. He added that support for the peace process had also come from the Jewish community in the U.S., even from Rabbi Alexander Schindler, a leader of Reform Judaism, whom Begin said espoused dovish views. Carter replied jokingly that Begin apparently saw the rabbi from a very different angle than the Americans did. Similarly good-natured banter followed in the next few minutes.

The transcript indicates that the atmosphere was simultaneously pleasant and very constructive. There were also some sarcastic remarks. At the same time, the impression is that the leaders chose their words carefully. The positions were explicated clearly. "It was diplomacy at the height of its glory," recalls one Foreign Ministry official who attended several such meetings.

Begin soon got down to business. He said he had consulted by phone with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, and wanted to add some new ideas to the plan he had put forward the previous day. According to the Jewish tradition, the premier explained, anyone who makes a declaration and quotes its sources brings redemption to the world. He then mentioned, on Dayan's behalf, two procedural issues.

But before going on to discuss his own plan, Begin - without any preliminaries or any connection to what had been talked about - said out of the blue: "Our paper made no mention of Jerusalem but, of course, we have been considering it. We didn't overlook it at all. The matter refers to the holy shrines of the Muslim, Christian and the Jewish world. Indeed, it is of interest to the whole world.

"My idea, and I wish to emphasize that is still only an idea - I still, of course, have to discuss it with my colleagues - is to have an international religious council that would take care of the holy shrines of each of the respective religions. Thus, with regard to the Muslim shrines, I would suggest that a council be set up of our neighbors: Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and, in addition, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Morocco, which is very friendly. Such a committee would take care of the shrines in complete autonomy, and of course there would be free access for everybody. There are, of course, other problems which we need to dwell upon now.

"With respect to the Christians' holy shrines, the same principle would apply: an international committee composed of the Vatican, the Pravoslavs, and the Protestants, including [he added jokingly] the Baptists."

President Carter (jocularly ): Mr. Prime Minister, I am hardly inviting you to name a chairman. [Laughter]

Prime Minister Begin: With regard to the Jewish shrines, the committee would be headed by our Chief Rabbinate and also sages from the Diaspora.

Carter: Would it be patterned after the Vatican?

Begin: It is not for me to say, Mr. President. I am a Jew.

Ambassador Dinitz: The president means will it be modeled on the pattern of the Vatican.

Begin: We will have to consider it; what I mean is that each denomination would take care of its shrines.

Secretary Vance: Would there be three different groups?

Begin: That is correct.

Vance: Would there be interchange, exchange, liaison between them?

Begin: Maybe.

The prime minister then turned to a different subject; the issue of Jerusalem did not come up again at the meeting.

'I'm in shock'

Reactions to the transcript of the December 17 meeting from people who were close to Begin 34 years ago range from "Check the text again," to "That is a total surprise." The most stunned among them declared, "I am in shock," at Begin's idea of establishing autonomous international religious councils to look after the holy places in Jerusalem.

Yehuda Avner, who was present at the meeting, says he does not remember this proposal. All the other members of Begin's bureau from that period, and from the period of the Camp David Accords less than a year later - Shlomo Nakdimon, Dan Pattir, Dan Meridor and Aryeh Naor - also say they have no recollection of any such suggestion or anything close to it being made by Begin. Benny Begin, the son of the late prime minister and currently a cabinet minister in the Netanyahu government, says he too never heard the idea; like most of the others, he declined to comment on it or offer an interpretation.

A senior diplomatic figure who was a member of Begin's bureau during those years says, "That was apparently one of the discussions whose minutes were destroyed." He explains that all of Begin's meetings during the negotiations were documented meticulously, "either by stenographers or by recordings which were later transcribed ... At least six copies of every transcript were kept and classified top secret. However, in regard to a small number of conversations, in which extremely sensitive matters were raised, an order was issued to destroy the stenographic copies and only one copy was kept, in the Prime Minister's Bureau."

This may explain why Begin's proposal about the holy places in Jerusalem remained unknown.

In response to a query from Haaretz on this subject, President Carter replied that he remembers the proposal, and added, "I was surprised that he initiated the subject of Jerusalem and, in effect, proposed that all the holy places - Jewish, Muslim and Christian - would in effect be autonomous and with free access for worshippers."

Begin's suggestion is general and vague, and does not touch on fundamental issues such as the sovereign status of Jerusalem or the civil status of the city's inhabitants. Nor does he clarify the character of the proposed committees, their legal status or territorial jurisdiction. He refers to them as an "international religious council," "committee," or "international committee"; furthermore, it is not clear whether the idea was for the three different religious bodies to be headed by a single, supreme one.

Even though Begin starts by citing reservations, it is apparent that he was not speaking spontaneously: The principles he mentions attest to profound thought and factual analysis. For example, Morocco is mentioned as a potential member of the council overseeing Muslim shrines - but not because it is a "very friendly" country, as Begin put it. The king of Morocco then headed a body called the Jerusalem Committee, which acted via the Arab League and Islamic organizations to preserve the welfare of the shrines in the city holy to Muslims. Saudi Arabia, too, was not a random choice, since it was then one of the main countries opposed to the Israeli peace agreement with Egypt.

According to a Begin confidant from that period, "Aharon Barak appears to have had a hand in this. There is a structure here that resembles a legal model...Begin, a lawyer by training, found plenty of common ground with Barak on that basis. They held lengthy discussions, and to me it sounds like an idea which could only have emerged from the encounter between the two."

In response, retired Supreme Court president Barak said he does not give interviews about the peace process.

Another Begin aide linked the idea to Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan who, he said, had spoken "in a similar vein a number of times about the future of Jerusalem." Dayan, this source noted, "conducted the [talks on the] cease-fire agreements with the Jordanians in the city after the War of Independence. He was well acquainted with the legal sensitivities in connection with Jerusalem, and always looked for pragmatic solutions. Moreover, unlike Begin, he had no interest in the city's holiness."

Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who was an adviser to Dayan and his bureau chief during this period, said in response, "I have no recollection of these specific matters from that time."

Origins in Etzel?

Another, and more surprising possibility, is suggested by current Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor. Meridor, himself raised in a Revisionist and Herut home, recalls the "declaration of revolt" by Etzel (the pre-state underground group headed by Begin; also known as the Irgun ). In January 1944, when the war in Europe seemed to have reached a turning point, Begin declared a revolt against the British Mandate administration. In practice, this meant the end of the restraint Etzel had shown in its operations against the British forces in Palestine, so as not to interfere with the war against Nazi Germany.

In his declaration, Begin called for the establishment of a provisional Jewish government to replace the British authorities, and added nine more basic principles that would underlie the nascent state. The ninth said that the government "shall confer extraterritorial status on the holy places of the Christian and Muslim religions."

In the view of Prof. Aryeh Naor, who was Begin's secretary: "Begin might have been influenced by the doctrine formulated by Ze'ev Jabotinsky...which contained a very similar idea about the future of Jerusalem. In a document listing 'main points for a provisional plan of government in the Land of Israel,' Jabotinsky stipulated that the city would be headed by a 'special international committee.'"

Also in the background was the 1947 United Nations partition plan. It declared Jerusalem a separate body under a special international regime that it would administer. Ben-Gurion accepted this idea and therefore made no mention of Jerusalem in the Declaration of Independence. Begin rejected the idea, but in the meantime the disputed status of Jerusalem allowed the Etzel forces under his command to continue operating there autonomously for more than 10 months after Israel declared independence.

Beyond the difficulties concerning the proposal's ideological underpinnings, Begin's aides are still perplexed by some of the ideas raised in the meeting by President Carter and Secretary of State Vance: The possibility that the Vatican would serve as a model - and that there would be close relations between the religious committees - these accord Begin's proposal unprecedented implications.

"He meant what he said," asserts one source, who was close to the premier for many years. "If he raised the idea, he meant it. Begin was not a man of 'spins.' He possessed rare political integrity."

Begin's other close aides express similar opinions and find it difficult to explain the Jerusalem proposal.

Begin's short trip to Washington in December 1977 was relatively successful. The Americans backed part of his peace plan. They had reservations about certain points, notably in connection with his ideas about the solution of the Palestinian question. Carter told the media that Begin's suggestions constituted a positive basis for the continuation of talks. Sadat said he had been optimistic since his visit to Jerusalem, but that after the phone call he received from President Carter, he was "more optimistic" than ever.

Ze'ev Schiff, reporting for Haaretz from Cairo, wrote that large crowds in Ismailia were shouting "Long live Begin." On the day Begin returned, 120,000 people gathered in what is now Rabin Square in Tel Aviv "for an evening of the 'Song of Peace'" on December 18. According to press reports, police reinforcements were called in to control the large and unruly crowd. Several people were injured.

As far as is known, Begin's proposal for the future of Jerusalem was not raised again during the peace negotiations with Egypt. In his recent response to Haaretz, Carter says: "I made a similar proposal at Camp David that was accepted by both Begin and Sadat for a few days. In effect, the holy places would be administered autonomously by each religion, there would be unimpeded access by worshippers, and that Jerusalem would be undivided and its secular issues would be decided by a central governing body. This would relate to transportation, water, waste disposal, electricity, etc. During the final drafting stage, however, all three of us decided it was too politically sensitive for consideration on a global basis."

After this, Begin refused to discuss Jerusalem again and hardened his position on the subject. "For a while," recall some members of the entourage, "this was the most complex issue [under discussion] in the peace process."

The 1979 peace treaty was ultimately accompanied by letters concerning the city's status: Begin declared that Jerusalem would not be divided and would remain Israel's capital; Sadat stated that Arab Jerusalem is part of the West Bank and must be restored to Arab sovereignty.

A year and a half after these events, Begin supported the Basic Law on Jerusalem, which stipulates, "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." In 2000, amendments were made to that law, declaring that the city's boundaries would incorporate its eastern section, and that, "No authority that is stipulated in the law of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem municipality may be transferred either permanently or for an allotted period of time to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body."

In 2007, the Knesset passed another amendment, which stipulates that a majority of at least 80 MKs will be required to cede officially any territory or jurisdiction in Jerusalem. A motion recently submitted by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi ) to amend the law yet again in order to stipulate that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and of the Jewish people is still pending on the government agenda. Also in the works is a bill prohibiting negotiations to be held on the city's future.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

On the 'Begin Doctrine'

By Uri Heitner in Israel Hayom:-

Stick to the Begin Doctrine

Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin received a surprising letter after the Persian Gulf War. The letter, signed by a group of Knesset members, thanked Begin for his decision to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak a decade earlier.

The surprise in the letter was that among those who signed it were MKs who had been firmly opposed to the decision before the strike, and critics of it afterward. In retrospect they had all realized the justification of Begin's decision. They understood the grave significance of having weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a radical tyrant like Saddam Hussein, and appreciated the leadership, bravery and decision-making skills that Begin displayed. Begin arrived at his brave decision to bomb Osirak despite opposition from many officials, among them members of the security establishment. In hindsight, they too realized his justified belief: A prime minister's ultimate and utmost priority is to ensure Israel's existence.

Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!

According to the Begin Doctrine, as it has since been coined, Israel will make every effort to ensure its enemies do not procure nuclear weapons. It is according to this doctrine that then Prime Minster Ehud Olmert made, "according to foreign reports," the all-important decision to destroy the Syrian nuclear reactor.

This doctrine is all the more relevant today concerning Iran, which is ruled by Islamic fanatics. Letting Iran get its hands on nuclear weapons constitutes a threat to world peace, but first and foremost a perilous risk to Israel's security. An Israeli prime minister who does not stick to the Begin Doctrine - who does not do everything in his power to prevent a nuclear Iran - is a prime minister shirking his duties.

The question is how to prevent it. It does not necessarily mean an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear reactors. Military action is the last resort, and so as long as crises can be averted diplomatically and through sanctions, they should be. The Iranian threat is global, and as such it should be the free world, spearheaded by the U.S., that leads the fight in preventing a nuclear Iran. And if it still remains that the only viable solution is Israeli military action, no government has the moral right to avoid such a course, despite the risks.

Of course it is imperative to ensure that military action would be effective, as well as to take into account the price Israel might pay as result. But such discussion should not be held in a public forum, as media speculation dilutes Israeli deterrence and gives Iranian leaders the feeling that Israel has eschewed the military option. If Iran comes to the conclusion that Israel will not strike then nothing will stop the ayatollah's regime in its quest for nuclear arms.

The public debate raging in Israel over a possible attack on Iran is rash and irresponsible. Thanks to reckless leaks of information, the Israeli public is being worked into a frenzy that delegitimizes military action against the Iranian nuclear project. Israel's highest duty, which is to defend its citizens, is being depicted as an adventurous game being played by two irresponsible men who must be reminded not to play with fire.

In Iran, it would be easy to see the nature of the debate as Israel's renunciation of military action, thus dealing a harsh blow to Israeli deterrence. Such damage could cement Iran's procurement of nuclear weapons as a done deal.

Iranian nuclear weapons are an existential threat to Israel. Even if not used, their very existence could change the balance of power in the Middle East, effectively turning the region into the Iranian regime's hostage.

Public debates that cause a delegitimization of Israel's highest duty to protect its citizens only play into Iran's hands and strike hard at Israel's security.


IDF Unit Program at the Center

A special IDF educational program was held for the office-level staff of a tank unit and here's how the entrance to the Center appeared last Sunday:


An Appreciation: Knitting and Recalling Begin

Altalena: An Evenstar for Jabotinsky and Begin

...I briefly tried to do some mindless knitting...I went through my stash of yarn; I had bought some half-and-half cashmere and silk laceweight, but that wasn’t satisfying. For winter, I wanted something more substantial...

...I always block on Shabbat because finishing lace is an act of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. What we put into the world, we put into the world and there is more of. Then I named it for Zeev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Jewish Legion, and Menachem Begin. The more you look at them, particularly Begin, the better they look. Ben Gurion does not. Now I find myself reading Begin’s The Revolt: The Story of the Irgun (Steimatsky, Jerusalem, 1972). The frontispiece, a formal photo of Begin, is incredibly interesting. He has that strange mouth, that in a woman we would call sensuous and sardonic, and then those eyes: calm, clear, driven by a vision of his country and its place in the world, eyes that are sane and reassuring even though they have seen hell. By contrast, Ben Gurion’s face and eyes are those of a madman. Gradually, reading his writing, you realize that this Polish Jew little removed from the shtetl had made himself not only into a man capable of preventing a Jewish civil war (at real personal risk), making peace with Anwar Sadat, integrating marginalized Sephardi Jews into Israel and helping open up the economy, but also a British gentleman. And by that, I mean the real thing, not an artifact of good tailoring. “Unlike Arthur Koestler,” Begin wrote, I believe that sobriety is one of the happy characteristics of our people… [W]hile I believe that there are many things we ought to learn from other peoples, drinking is not one of them. Preferably, others should learn abstinence from us.”


But it is his chapter, “The Floggings,” that we realize we are indeed dealing with a gentleman, of a man who while waging war against the British always attempted to spare those who could be spared, a man who fought a total war with limited means. “In the development of certain British colonies the whip has been made to serve an educational purpose.

“While Eretz Israel was ruled as a British colony, it could not logically be denied the educational privilege of the whip.” The British captured two young Irgunists and sentenced them to 15 years and 18 lashes for bearing arms without permission. The Irgun high command decided, virtually without discussion but in instinctive revulsion, that if the British were going to flog captured soldiers, they would capture British officers and flog them. The reasoning was this: “The relations between soldiers and their officers are not particularly affectionate.” Indeed, “on one of the posters containing our warning, a British soldier scrawled in big letters, ‘Please don’t forget my sergeant major.’ … [T]his particular Tommy thoughtfully added his full name, unit, and regimental number.”

In the event, the British did publicly flog young Kimche; the Irgun retaliated by flogging one British major and three British non-commissioned officers. That left young Katz, and the British, warned that this time a flogging would be met by fire, cancelled the flogging on young Katz. Writes Begin, in full memory of Arab massacres of Jews, “A young Arab of sixteen who had also been sentenced to lashes was included in the ‘amnesty’. Respecting the honour of others as we did our own, we rejoiced for him, too.’”

There are roads not taken in politics as in the lives of individuals. One is, what would Israel be like if this measured, proud, dignified voice–Begin was known to listen in silence to abuse at political meetings, until his abusers wearied, then tell a joke–were the normal tone of public life? Indeed, what would America be like if that were how we Americans normally addressed each other? No, manners are not policy, but how we speak to people indicates our opinion of them, just as how we dress indicates what we think of ourselves.

Which somehow brings us back to lace: its making and its wearing.