Thursday, April 29, 2010

Menachem Begin - Conspicuously Missing

In the infamous speech made by General James Jones, President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, DC on April 21, - although the White House transcript avoids the rather unseemly "Jewish" joke he told, - he mentionedf peacemakers.

It is time for all leaders in the region—Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab—to support efforts for peace. It is time for today’s leader to demonstrate the courage and leadership of Anwar Sadat, King Hussein, and Yitzhak Rabin.

Menachem Begin is too conspicuously missing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wreath-Laying for Feinstein and Barazani

Yisrael Medad laying a wreath at the Gallows Chamber on the Remembrance Day for Israel's War Fallen to commemorate the deaths of Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Begin's Words Recalled on Independence Day

Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Diplomatic Corps at the President's Residence
Israel Independence Day

His Excellency the President of the State of Israel Mr. Shimon Peres,
Heads of Missions and International Organizations,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for joining with us today to celebrate Israel's 62nd year of independence.

Thirty years ago, during Israel's 32nd independence day, the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin declared:

"Citizens of Israel, let us set Jerusalem above our highest joy! …It is our right to reaffirm on the day of our rededication of our national independence, that the city, north and south, east and west, is entirely under Israel's sovereignty, our eternal capital city! It cannot be divided! And will never again be divided! Neither directly, nor indirectly!"

Ladies and gentlemen,

The late Prime Minister Begin, who won a Nobel Peace Prize, expressed the eternal connection between Jews everywhere and Jerusalem, which existed then and exists today. Begin made that statement as Israel and Egypt were implementing the historic peace agreement between them. It did not stand in the way of peace.
Today, I stand before you in Jerusalem, as Israel's Foreign Minister, and reaffirm late Prime Minister Begin's statement: Jerusalem is our undivided, eternal capital!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Menachem Begin in a New York Times Story

From a New York Times story:-

The dispute started last week when an Israeli television crew came through. As it passed the office of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the construction site of the new presidential compound, it noticed that a main road bore new blue signs declaring it Yahya Ayyash Street.

Mr. Ayyash was considered the most cunning of the Hamas bomb makers in the 1990s, known to friend and foe as the Engineer, whose work led to the deaths of scores of Israelis on buses and crowded city streets. He was assassinated by Israel in what its security forces viewed as poetic justice: they slipped him a booby-trapped cellphone and when he answered it one day in Gaza, they exploded it against his head.

The street signs not only honor Mr. Ayyash, but also offer a concise biography in Arabic and English: “Yahya Ayyash 1966-1996. Born in Rafat (Nablus), he studied electrical engineering in Birzeit University, he was active in Al Qassam Brigades, and Israel claimed that he was responsible for a series of bomb attacks, and he was assassinated in Beit Lahya (Gaza Strip) on 5/1/1996.”

Within an hour of the Israeli television report on the street name, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a furious condemnation, calling it a “shocking incitement.” By last Friday, the State Department had issued a similar statement, saying that the “glorification of terrorists” harmed peace efforts and had to stop.

The Palestinian Authority promptly replied, saying that the attention Mr. Netanyahu was paying to a street sign was an effort to divert attention from his real concern — international pressure against the construction of Jewish settlement units in East Jerusalem.

After noting that street names are chosen by municipalities, and that Ayyash Street dates back years, the Palestinian Authority attacked the names of hundreds of Israeli streets and institutions saying they honored men who had “committed crimes against Palestinians.” Among those it considered beyond the pale was Menachem Begin, the former prime minister and Nobel laureate.

As the Palestinian government statement put it, “Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was responsible for the murder of innocent Palestinians in 1948 and is infamous for his role in the Deir Yassin massacre, has museums, streets and many public spaces across Israel named after him. Most were done through government funding.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Signees of the Condolence Book in Memory of Poland's President

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin

Minister Beny Begin

Monday, April 12, 2010

Condolence Book Opened at Begin Center

The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Israel and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center have announced the opening of an Official Condolence Book of the Embassy of Poland.

The public is invited to add their words of condolence and tribute in memory of The President of Poland Lech Kaczynski and his Wife and The Elite Establishment of Poland's Military, Political and Church Leadership By signing the Official Condolence Book of the Embassy of Poland.

It is located in the Executive Board Room on the 4th Floor of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, 6 Nahon Street, Jerusalem, between the hours 10:00 - 14:00.

Respectful decorum will be appreciated.

The book will be sent to the Polish Government.

President Kaczynski was a great friend of Israel and the Jewish People and worked relentlessly to strengthen the ties between Israel and Poland and commemorating the Righteous Among the Nations who saved Jews during World War II. During his numerous visits to Israel, President Kaczynski visited the Begin Center and, with his wife Maria, toured the Menachem Begin Museum, a leader who he admired as the commander of the Underground and as an Israeli leader who was born and raised in Poland.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Begin's Reaction recalled by Daniel Pipes

When Israel Stood Up to Washington
by Daniel Pipes
April 6, 2010

As U.S.-Israel tensions climb to unfamiliar heights, they recall a prior round of tensions nearly thirty years ago, when Menachem Begin and Ronald Reagan were in charge. In contrast to Binyamin Netanyahu's repeated apologies, Begin adopted a quite different approach.

The sequence of events started with a statement from Syrian dictator Hafiz al-Asad that he would not make peace with Israel "even in a hundred years," Begin responded by making the Golan Heights part of Israel, terminating the military administration that had been governing that territory from the time Israeli forces seized it from Syria in 1967. Legislation to this effect easily passed Israel's parliament on Dec. 14, 1981.

This move came, however, just two weeks after the signing of a U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation Agreement, prompting much irritation in Washington. At the initiative of Secretary of State Alexander Haig, the U.S. government suspended that just-signed agreement. One day later, on Dec. 20, Begin summoned Samuel Lewis, the U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv, for a dressing-down.

Yehuda Avner, a former aide to Begin, provides atmospherics and commentary on this episode at "When Washington bridled and Begin fumed." As he retells it, "The prime minister invited Lewis to take a seat, stiffened, sat up, reached for the stack of papers on the table by his side, put them on his lap and [adopted] a face like stone and a voice like steel." Begin began with "a thunderous recitation of the perfidies perpetrated by Syria over the decades." He ended with what he called "a very personal and urgent message" to President Reagan (available at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website).

"Three times during the past six months, the U.S. Government has 'punished' Israel," Begin began. He enumerated those three occasions: the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, the bombing of the PLO headquarters in Beirut, and now the Golan Heights law. Throughout this exposition, according to Avner, Lewis interjected but without success: "Not punishing you, Mr. Prime Minister, merely suspending ...," "Excuse me, Mr. Prime Minister, it was not ...," "Mr. Prime Minister, I must correct you ...," and "This is not a punishment, Mr. Prime Minister, it's merely a suspension until ..."

Fully to vent his anger, Begin drew on a century of Zionism:

What kind of expression is this – "punishing Israel"? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don't behave properly, are slapped across the fingers? Let me tell you who this government is composed of. It is composed of people whose lives were spent in resistance, in fighting and in suffering. You will not frighten us with "punishments." He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are only prepared to listen to rational arguments. You have no right to "punish" Israel – and I protest at the very use of this term.

In his most stinging attack on the United States, Begin challenged American moralizing about civilian casualties during the Israeli attack on Beirut:

You have no moral right to preach to us about civilian casualties. We have read the history of World War II and we know what happened to civilians when you took action against an enemy. We have also read the history of the Vietnam war and your phrase "body-count."

Referring to the U.S. decision to suspend the recently signed agreement, Begin announced that "The people of Israel has lived 3,700 years without a memorandum of understanding with America – and it will continue to live for another 3,700." On a more mundane level, he cited Haig having stated on Reagan's behalf that the U.S. government would purchase $200 million worth of Israeli arms and other equipment "Now you say it will not be so. This is therefore a violation of the President's word. Is it customary? Is it proper?"

Recalling the recent fight in the U.S. Senate over the decision to sell AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia, Begin noted that it "was accompanied by an ugly campaign of anti-Semitism." By way of illustration, he mentioned three specifics: the slogans "Begin or Reagan?" and "We should not let the Jews determine the foreign policy of the United States," plus aspersions that senators like Henry Jackson, Edward Kennedy, Robert Packwood, and Rudy Boschwitz "are not loyal citizens."

Responding to demands that the Golan Heights law be rescinded, Begin sourced the very concept of rescission to "the days of the Inquisition" and reminded Lewis that

Our forefathers went to the stake rather than "rescind" their faith. We are not going to the stake. Thank God. We have enough strength to defend our independence and to defend our rights. … please be kind enough to inform the secretary of state that the Golan Heights Law will remain valid. There is no force on earth that can bring about its rescission.

The session ended without Lewis responding. As Avner recounts, "Faced with this unyielding barrage, which to the ambassador seemed somewhat hyperbolic and, in part, even paranoid, he saw no point in carrying on, so he took his leave."

Comments: (1) Late 1981 marked the nadir of U.S.-Israel relations during the Reagan administration. In particular, strategic cooperation made headway in subsequent years.

(2) The ministry website calls Begin's blast "an unprecedented move"; to which I add, it was not just unprecedented but also unrepeated.

(3) Begin's sense of destiny, combined with his oratorical grandeur impelled him to respond to current policy differences by invoking 3,700 years of Jewish history, the Inquisition, the Vietnam War, and American antisemitism. In the process, he changed the terms of the argument.

(4) Notwithstanding intense American aggravation with Begin, his blistering attack improved Israeli pride and standing.

(5) Politicians in other countries quite frequently attack the United States. Indeed, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, did so last week. But his purpose – to convince his countrymen that he is not, in fact, a kept politician – differed fundamentally from Begin's of asserting Israel's dignity.

(6) It is difficult to imagine any other Israeli politician, Binyamin Netanyahu included, who would dare to pull off Begin's verbal assault.

(7) Yet that might be just what Israel needs.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.