Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mazal Tov to Al Reich! 85 Years Old!

Alfred H. Reich, philanthropist, celebrated his 85th birthday this month.

Surrounded by friends and former colleagues, Al shared his pride in his major contribution to the Museum in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center – a gift to Jewish people in the land of Israel.

Herzl Makov, chairman, sent a Mazal Tov letter joining virtually the Jewish community in Al’s native town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Mazal Tov Al – may you be blessed with many years of good health and joy with a hope to see you soon in Jerusalem!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ten Fingers vs. One Mouth

One More Rubinstein Story . . . [Jay Nordlinger]

. . . and one I just learned yesterday, as it happens. I was talking to Yehuda Avner, not about Rubinstein, but about Menachem Begin. Avner is a British-born Israeli who has counseled a slew of prime ministers — including Begin. In the ’80s — the Thatcher ’80s — Avner served as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

Anyway, we got on the subject of Rubinstein. He and Begin were friends — they certainly knew each other. In fact, Rubinstein was at the Begins’ the day the prime minister won the Nobel Peace Prize, with Sadat. Begin asked him to played [sic] something in celebration — which he did. Anyway, here’s the story that Avner related:

The politician says to the pianist, “Mr. Rubinstein, you have ten fingers, I have ten fingers. And when I place my ten fingers on the keyboard, I just make noise. When you place your ten fingers on the keyboard, you produce celestial sounds.” Pianist to politician: “Mr. Begin, I have a mouth, you have a mouth. When I open my mouth, I talk drivel. When you open your mouth, you produce celestial words.”

You may not remember Begin as much of an orator or an arguer, probably because his international reputation — shaped by the Left — is negative. But he was very good, believe me.

Anyway, I think I’m done with Rubinstein stories for the day. I may be back with Heifetz . . .

Report On the Lechi Commemoration Anniversary Event

Lehi vets celebrate 70th anniversary


Former soldiers of the "Stern gang" gather in Jerusalem.

Most of the people who crowded into the auditorium of the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem last week were in their eighties and nineties. All of them, some with bent backs, others in wheel chairs or walking with the aid of canes were former heroes and heroines recruited by the charismatic Avraham Stern, whose nom de guerre was Yair, to join the Lehi, an acronym for Lohamei Herut Israel (the Israel Freedom Fighters).

They had been anonymous soldiers without uniforms and they had passionately believed in Stern’s credo, the foundation of which was redeeming the land of Israel in accordance with the boundaries set down in the Bible, reestablishing its sovereignty and driving out any foreign occupier.

Following the Arab riots of 1929, Stern joined the Haganah, but found it be too moderate in its policy. He joined the breakaway movement known as the Irgun, or Etzel, an acronym for Tzva Hagana L’Israel (the Israel Defense Army). The Irgun split over ideological issues. Some of its members returned to the Haganah.

Others followed Stern, who unlike Irgun leader David Raziel, who regarded the Arab front as the confrontation line, saw the British as the principal enemy. Stern and his anonymous soldiers were dedicated to getting rid of the British one way or another.

The Irgun was willing to suspend anti- British activities and to even join the British in battling the Nazis, but Stern was convinced that sovereign statehood could be achieved only by continuing the struggle against the British.

While every speaker referred to this, none mentioned that he was even prepared to collaborate with the Nazis in his bid to repel the British who regarded him as a terrorist.

This was however mentioned by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who noted that the British referred to Stern’s followers as The Stern Gang.

The group’s dedication to the cause is expressed in the Lehi hymn penned by Stern. Two lines in the first verse state: “We are recruited for life to be released only by death.” Addressing the veterans, Stern’s son, veteran broadcaster Yair Stern, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the father he never knew who was killed by the British in 1942, reminded them: “You embraced Yair’s vision because you believed in the liberation of the nation.” He noted that the Lehi’s ranks included Sephardim and Ashkenazim, religious and secular, haredim from Mea Shearim and Arabs from Abu Ghosh whose common denominator was the desire to be rid of foreign rule.

Begin Center director Herzl Makov termed Lehi “the pillar of fire that went before the camp.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin noted that the time had come to give the much maligned Lehi and its soldiers their due recognition and to correct the errors of history. It was important to reexamine the events and values of those days, he said. There were differences between all the clandestine groups, but their common ambition was much greater than what divided them.

It was not easy to explain to today’s youth that have grown up in Israel that they take for granted what induced the establishment of the Etzel and the Lehi, said Rivlin, who underscored that Israel still faces an existential threat. “The world is still the same world.”

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat’s parents Shulamit and Azriel Weiss- Livnat were prominent figures in the Lehi, and Shulamit Livnat, a well-known singer, was the Etzel and the Lehi singer. Livnat said that she had passed the torch onto the third generation and had named her son Yair. All three generations were seated together in the front row of the auditorium.

Israel still has to contend with anti- Semitism, enemies and “people who hate us,” Livnat said, emphasizing that it was too early to disband the IDF.

Alluding to evader of IDF service, Livnat said that young people today do not fall short of those of yesteryear, “they just need direction.” What distinguished the Lehi, she continued, is that no one saw themselves as exempt from the battle.

“They were recruited for life, and today we have to take the same attitude.”

Ya’alon, who was not raised upon the ideology of the Etzel or the Lehi, admitted that he had grown up with very negative perceptions of the Lehi, whose fighters were described as extremists and were sometimes compared to terrorists.

In later life he had studied the history and ideology of the Lehi, and reached the conclusion that attitudes towards it followed the Bolshevik system of delegitimizing the enemy.

Ya’alon concurred with the Rivlin that history must be re-examined and that Israeli students must study precisely what it was that motivated the Lehi leaders. Like speakers before and after him, Ya’alon spelled out the message that “the existential war is not yet over, and we have no-one to rely on but ourselves. The situation today is no different to what it was then.” Almost everyone who spoke drew a parallel with the past. The approval of the audience was palpable, especially during the address of MK Arieh Eldad, whose father Israel Eldad, an ultra right-wing nationalist, had been the Lehi ideologue and editor of its publications.

Echoing Livnat’s statement that the time has not yet come to disband the IDF, Eldad added: “I have bad news for you. The time has not yet come to disband the Lehi.” Zionism was born as a solution to anti-Semitism in the diaspora, said Eldad, with the understanding that the problem could not be solved in the diaspora. “Yair understood that Zionism was not the panacea for anti- Semitism, and he didn’t want the Land of Israel to be a haven. He wanted a return of sovereign rule in the Jewish homeland.” Eldad questioned whether Israel was indeed a haven, pointing out that more than 22,000 soldiers have paid the supreme sacrifice, “and even now nuclear weapons are being produced for the purpose of eradicating the Jews.”

Eldad who is opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declared: “We can never come to terms with any foreign power ruling on our land, ruling us, supervising us, fighting for us, or treating us as victims.

Allowing the Palestinians to establish a state is tantamount to saying that the land does not belong to us. Anyone who agrees to a Palestinian state cannot be considered a fighter for the freedom of Israel.”

Eldad justified the assassination by Lehi in September 1948 of Swedish diplomat Count Folk Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator between the Arabs and the Jews saying, “Count Bernadotte wanted to internationalize Jerusalem. In response the Lehi killed him. With his death, the concept of taking Jerusalem away from the Jewish people died with him.”

The heroism of the Lehi is not just a myth or a legend, he continued. “It’s a vision which we have yet to complete.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More On The Iraqi Bombing

Letter responding to Richard Allen's piece:

June 11, 2010

An Earlier Israeli Raid, When Reagan Was President

To the Editor:

While “Reagan’s Secure Line,” by Richard V. Allen (Op-Ed, June 7), presents an interesting and useful insight into President Ronald Reagan’s attitude toward the Israeli air raid in June 1981 that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, it calls for several comments.

First, Mr. Allen said that the raid “dealt a fatal blow to Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.” This was not the case at all; it drove the Iraqi program underground, causing Iraq to enhance and conceal its nuclear weapon program.
Indeed, Shimon Peres, who was then opposition leader and is now Israel’s president, was critical of the strike then and for years afterward for just this reason. After the first Persian Gulf war, it was determined that the Iraqi regime was perhaps only two years away from a nuclear weapon.

Second, Mr. Allen notes that Secretary of State Alexander Haig, against his inclination, authorized “criticism” of Israel as a result of pressure from inside the bureaucracy of the State Department and from other countries. But the United States did more than simply criticize Israel; it joined in a unanimous Security Council resolution that condemned Israel, calling its actions a violation of the United Nations Charter and the norms of international conduct. President Reagan was the head of the United States government when this happened.

This event ultimately did not disturb United States-Israeli relations, and given the nature of the Iraqi regime, Israel’s actions may well have been justified by history. Nevertheless, what was involved was a significant military assault on the territory of a sovereign state on the one hand, and on the other hand, the real possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Thus, the 1981 event should not be suggested as a precedent in either direction for the current incidents related to the blockade of Gaza.

Thomas Graham Jr.
McLean, Va., June 8, 2010

The writer is a former special representative of President Clinton for arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament, 1994-97.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Osirak Recalled

Reagan’s Secure Line

WITH a controversial Israeli attack in the news, I have thought back to another controversial Israeli attack, one that took place 29 years ago today: the strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq. The daring, risky bombing dealt a fatal blow to Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. I was then President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, after having been his chief foreign policy adviser for several years.

That Sunday afternoon, I was on my back porch in Arlington, Va., wading through a small mountain of staff memorandums, reports, diplomatic cables and the rest of my perpetually mounting paperwork. My progress was interrupted by a call on the “drop line” direct link from the communications center next to the White House Situation Room; the duty officer was requesting that I go to the special secure line, kept in a safe in my basement.

After a few fumbles with the rotary dial, I opened the safe, inserted the current secure chip and connected to the comm center. On the scratchy connection, the duty officer reported that Israeli warplanes were returning from their mission in Iraq, and were by then over Saudi airspace. Oddly, the aircraft, F-16’s and F-15’s, were thought to be unable to make a round trip to Iraq: Israel couldn’t refuel its planes in the air and landing between the two countries was considered unthinkable.

Equipped with this fragmentary information, I requested constant updates, then hastily connected to the White House switchboard and asked to be put through to President Reagan. Within seconds, an officer at Camp David answered; I directed him to get the president on the line immediately. He hesitated, then said, “Sorry, sir, he is just boarding the chopper here.”

I ordered the officer to get the president off the helicopter and to the phone without delay, but he demurred, indicating that the president might not like to be recalled. I suggested that if he wasn’t immediately brought to the phone, there would be consequences. I could hear the whirring of the helicopter blades in the background.

In what seemed an eternity but was only two minutes or so, President Reagan was on the line, a slight note of irritation in his voice: “Yes, Dick, what is it?” I quickly recited what happened, and he asked me to repeat the message. After pausing for a few seconds, he asked, “Why do you suppose they did that?” My answer was something to the effect that the Israelis clearly did not want that reactor to become operational.

He went silent, and the phone line again filled with the churning of the copter. With characteristic aplomb, he suddenly asked: “Well, you know what?” I said, “What, Mr. President?” His retort was classic: “Boys will be boys!”

This was typical Reagan. He could simultaneously recognize the long-range strategic consequences and appreciate the seriousness of the situation — then cut to the chase with a pithy comment. I said I would have a report by the time the helicopter landed back at the White House.

The next day, with all hell breaking loose in the newspapers and on TV, cabinet members and senior staff members held a long, animated Oval Office meeting and tried to assess the impact of the sensational strike from every angle.

The vigorous discussion provided some surprises, including the opinions presented by Vice President George H. W. Bush; the chief of staff, James Baker; and the president’s omnipresent aide, Michael Deaver. They argued strongly for punitive actions against Israel, including taking back aircraft and delaying or canceling scheduled deliveries. There also came the unexpected news that several important Middle East countries, while publicly professing outrage and dismay, were privately pleased.

Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was angry, but measured, while Secretary of State Alexander Haig carefully presented the diplomatic concerns. As he explained to me before the meeting, Haig was inclined to stand by Israel, but great pressure from within the State Department and from other countries prompted him to be less vocal and ultimately to authorize official American criticism of Israel. The C.I.A. director, William J. Casey, was circumspect; like Haig, he understood the president’s views well. I said nothing. The president himself said little, listening patiently.

Even today, few people realize that in the years before his presidency, Reagan devoted himself to foreign-policy study, filling his hours with reading, correspondence, travel abroad and briefings with experts. There were actually disagreements among advisers about the wisdom of his devoting so much time to these substantive tasks, some considering this work marginal to political or other considerations. But as a result of his extensive preparation, Reagan developed deeply held principles on foreign policy, and while he was always willing to listen to opposing perspectives, he was not easily persuaded to yield.

When the session concluded, I lingered behind. The president looked up from the papers on his desk. “Well, what did you think of all that?” he asked. I suggested that he had basically heard all points of view — and that I had heard his comment the day before. He smiled, and returned to the papers on his desk.

By the end of the year, the United States and Israel had signed a strategic cooperation agreement.

Richard V. Allen, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, was the national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1982.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Quandt Memo

From Daniel Pipes' Blog:-

William Quandt's Embarrassing Memo
by Daniel Pipes
May 24, 2010

While working on documents at the Carter Center, a researcher from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center came across a declassified action memorandum from William Quandt, Middle East specialist on the National Security Council, to his boss, Zbigniew Brzezinski. (Click here for the document in full.) Dated May 18, 1977, it was written just one day after Begin's breakthrough victory over Labor, the first time any other party had beaten Labor since the State of Israel had been founded 29 years earlier.

The memo makes for deliciously instructive reading. Count the mistakes in Quandt's opening analysis:

Much of our strategy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has been predicated on the assumption that a strong and moderate Israeli government would at some point be able to make difficult decisions on territory and on the Palestinians. Now we face the prospect of a very weak coalition, a prolonged period of uncertainty, and an Israeli leadership which may be significantly more assertive in its policies concerning the West Bank, Palestinians, settlements, and nuclear weapons.

The Arabs will no doubt read the Israeli election results as signifying an end to the chance of getting to Geneva this year, and possibly the end of any hope for a political settlement, and we may see them begin to take out insurance by patching up quarrels with the Soviets, digging in their heels on peace terms, and acting more belligerently on oil prices.

In fact, Begin's government made the difficult decisions Labor had not taken, his coalition endured, the Egyptians became more forthcoming, their rift from the Soviets deepened, and oil prices were not affected (until the fall of the shah shot them up).

The rest of the memo consists mainly of five bullet points in which Quandt outlines tactics by which to weaken Begin, with this passage the key to the approach:

Begin should be allowed to make his own mistakes. If he takes positions in his talks with us that preclude the continuation of our peace initiative, we should not hesitate to explain what has happened. Israelis can then draw their own conclusions, and perhaps the next election in 1978 or 1979 will produce different results.

In fact, Begin won reelection in June 1981 and his successors went on to dominate Israeli politics for 27 out of the next 33 years. But by 1981, of course, American voters had thrown Jimmy Carter out of office, meaning that Brzezinski no longer needed Quandt's sage advice.


(1) Asked to comment on these documents, the director-general of the Begin Heritage Center, Herzl Makov, noted their relevance to current U.S.-Israel relations: "It's interesting to see history repeat itself. Just like now, we see that the Carter administration made every mistake possible about the political situation in Israel, I think that in 30 years, studies will show that the Obama administration made the same mistakes. History will tell which administration was worse for Israel."

(2) In this memo, Quandt – who has a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to become president of the Middle East Studies Association as well as the Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. professor of politics at the University of Virginia – neatly encapsulates the incompetence of academically trained Middle East specialists. (May 24, 2010)