Friday, May 18, 2007

More on Likud Faction Meeting at the Begin Center

Likud celebrates 30 years since first rise to power, honors Begin

The members of the Likud Knesset faction - then and now - who came together to mark the 30th anniversary of the Likud's first rise to power, took advantage of the occasion to express their longing for their founder, Menachem Begin.

MK Silvan Shalom said Begin was a prime example, in contrast to this government, that "leadership must come with clean hands, purity of standards and honesty."

"What characterized Begin and what is so lacking in this country," said MK Yuval Steinitz, "is leadership with backbone." MK Gideon Sa'ar said "today's leadership is not leadership." MK Michael Eitan said "Begin's greatness was that he tried to do the impossible and be both a good politician and a human being."

Thus, the group that might constitute the next leadership of Israel drew the outlines of the characteristics necessary for leadership. When they were asked why leadership is lacking, Steinitz answered, "Today it is more difficult."

Outstanding in its absence was a speech by former Knesset speaker MK Reuven Rivlin. He was present, but did not speak. The race for the presidency apparently requires him to exercise caution not to insult or anger anyone. Also missing (obviously) was the former Likud MK who is now prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

The meeting, which took place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, was also the opportunity to reminisce, especially about where those present were on May 17, 1977.

Limor Livnat said she volunteered to work the chalkboard that night so she would be allowed into headquarters. During the night, she chalked up the thrilling results that flowed in from the polls. Sa'ar said he remembered that night very well, though he was only 10 years old.

Yuval Steinitz, a former leftist, admitted that he had voted for the Democratic Movement for Change (Dash), but Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu granted him absolution since he had mended his ways.

Netanyahu discussed events in Sderot, proposing a varied menu of actions from "stopping services like electricity and water in a controlled manner to bringing in limited ground forces to areas of rocket launches, to a distance of four to five kilometers."

Netanyahu also said that "paralysis and helplessness must pass from the world." How is that connected to Begin? Begin, according to Netanyahu, understood that the prime obligation of the government to its citizens is to protect their lives.

The result of this understanding, the head of the opposition al so noted, was "first and foremost the blowing up of the nuclear reactor in Iraq.

Begin acted with great daring against international opinion and against the United States." Silvan Shalom said he thought blowing up the Iraqi nuclear reactor was Begin's most important act.

Was there a feeling around the table of missing the blowing up of nuclear plants?

Netanyahu: "No, but admiration for what was done."

That was Haaretz.

Here's the Jerusalem Post:-

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday called upon Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to take serious steps to end rocket attacks on Sderot from the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at a Likud faction meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center marking the 30th anniversary of the party's 1977 rise to power, Netanyahu said that Olmert should learn from Begin's 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor that a government's primary responsibility is to protect its people.

"The government can do a lot to protect its people," Netanyahu said. "It could evacuate whomever necessary, enact a closure on the Gaza Strip, stop providing services like electricity and water, or decide on a limited invasion of four or five kilometers to distance the range of the Kassams. But the government isn't doing anything to protect the people of Sderot, because it is paralyzed," he said.

In an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu compared the current situation to that prior to the 1977 race. He said that in both instances, Israel was governed by leaders who had failed in war and were out of touch with the sentiment of the people.

Comparing himself to Begin, Netanyahu said that "Begin was also seen as a danger to peace" and that the slogan "anyone but Begin" had been replaced by "anyone but Bibi." He downplayed criticism in the Likud that he was not doing enough to overthrow Olmert.

"I'm trying to convince people in the Knesset that this government cannot continue, but many of them are too interested in sticking to their jobs," Netanyahu said. "The reason Shas isn't leaving is not because I haven't met with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Overthrowing a government is a process that develops, and we're getting there."

Netanyahu's Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, met with Yosef earlier this week in an effort to persuade him to topple Olmert; he has also met with Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. Shalom said the rabbi told him that the Shas Council of Torah Sages would meet soon to consider the matter.

"Bibi is paralyzed and it's unexplainable," Shalom said earlier this week. "We needed to do something and he wasn't doing it, so I decided to do it myself. If he doesn't do anything, there won't be elections any time soon."

The faction, joined by Likud MKs from 1977, watched a broadcast of the coverage of Begin's victory. The MKs laughed when Begin said in his victory speech that he was waiting for a "telegram of congratulations" from vanquished Labor candidate Shimon Peres.

Netanyahu defined Begin's legacy as "remaining consistent with one's vision, fighting for it, knowing how to lose and keeping on fighting for it until it is achieved."