Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Note on Begin's Peace Negotiations

From an article by Yoel Marcus:-

...the Camp David conference that generated the framework agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt also began in September (1978 ). It set out to deal with the core of the conflict between us and Egypt and draft a framework agreement for a peace treaty.

Menachem Begin came with a written list of 13 expressions that were not, under any circumstances, to appear in the peace agreement. They all pertained to the Palestinians and included "the just, legitimate rights of the Palestinian people," "all aspects of the problem," "the inadmissibility of seizing territories by force" etc. etc.

After 13 days of discussion, Begin agreed to include all the "forbidden" terms in the treaty. The White House mediators, headed by President Carter, presented 23 different drafts for framework agreements, one of which had all the forbidden expressions in it, masterfully disguised with verbal special effects. Anwar Sadat withdrew his demand to establish a Palestinian state and the Palestinian problem was swept under the carpet.

- - -

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Begin Center Head at Limmud FSU, Hamptons NY

Herzl Makov, Head of the Begin Center, participated in the Limmud Fest this summer in New York for Jews from the Former Soviet Union:

Limmud FSU Hamptons, NY
August 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Recalling The 1981 Bombing

The boundaries of responsibility

By Eitan Ben Eliyahu

On May 10, 1981, the Israel Air Force was busy with last-minute preparations for an attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor. But then Menachem Begin, who was both prime minister and defense minister, decided to cancel the mission. Begin had received a letter from the head of the opposition, Shimon Peres, objecting to the operation. And if the news had leaked to Peres, Begin thought, it might also have reached the enemy.

Another possible strike date was May 31, but since Begin was due to meet with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in Sharm al-Sheikh on June 4, the operation was postponed until June 7 to avoid undermining the summit. Thus Begin used his authority to decide whether or not a military operation that was about to be launched would actually be implemented.

In his recent testimony before the Turkel Committee investigating Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, Defense Minister Ehud Barak distinguished between the "what," which is decided by the government, and the "how," which is the province of the army. But in truth, to this day, no formula has yet been found to properly define the relationship between these two bodies. Barak's definitions of "what" and "how" attempted to draw a clear line between the parties' respective authorities, but the most important question lurks in the area where they overlap.

Military action is supposed to complement diplomatic action, pave the way for it or, sometimes, substitute for it. Therefore, the first question that needs to be answered is "why" - in other words, is there any reason for the military action?

The next question is "what" to carry out: A reprisal operation? Taking control of territory? Then comes the "how" - the best way for the military to carry out this operation.

Finally, once the type of action (the "what" ) and the method of implementation (the "how" ) have been determined, a decision must be made on "whether" to actually go through with it. That process involves an ongoing dialogue in which political and military decision-makers feed off each other, with the center of gravity and the degree of influence moving between the two sides.

At the "why" stage, the center of gravity rests with the government; the only question is whether or not to take the process a step further. The "what" stage amounts to a balanced dialogue between the parties: Even if it is based on prepared operational plans, there is always room for changes and adjustments.

While the joint forum continues to debate the "what," the military is already working on the "how." This is when it gathers information, delves into details and discusses alternatives. The more the army's preparations for the "how" advance, the larger the data pool on which they are based grows - which is why it can then go back and influence the discussion on the "what."

The "whether" is not decided until the last minute. At that stage, both the government and the military have responsibility and authority over the question of whether to go ahead. The military's stance is determined by the operational conditions on the ground at that moment, while the government is influenced by diplomatic and other considerations.

At such a decisive moment, however, the center of gravity shifts to the government. It always has the last word.

In the American system, there is no doubt about where the boundaries of the respective bodies' authority lies. Nevertheless, they are aware of the overlap that exists between the government and the military.

The authority of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, for instance, consists mainly of doing staff work and offering advice to the government, with which it works closely. This means it is more involved in the "what." The regional commanders, in contrast, are the ones who prepare and seek approval for the "how." But above them all, according to the U.S. constitution, is the president, who is the army's commander in chief.

There are many areas where the government's responsibility and that of the military overlap; to a great extent, the responsibility is collective. Still, there are cases in which one member of this collective bears responsibility for a failure and should not be allowed to continue in his post.

It would be better if the division of responsibility, definitions of authority and working procedures between Israel's government and army were not made clear only when the shadow of an investigative committee leads both parties to search for someone to blame.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Eitan Ben Eliyahu is a former commander of the air force.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Report on The Begin Center

The Long Island's "The Jewish Star" published this account of the Begin Center:

Remembering Menachem Begin

by Malka Eisenberg, its Travel Reporter.

On a hill overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, a smooth white stone museum off of Derech Hevron houses a moving commemoration of the life and accomplishments of Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister.

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center offers extensive audiovisual displays of Begin’s experiences and times, with reenactments of pivotal events including his interrogation by the NKVD (the precursor of the KGB) and planning sessions of the Irgun. Visitors sit in a reconstruction of his spare, book-lined living room and on benches at a flier-strewn election rally as they are guided through various stages of his story...

...As a reporter, I do not put myself into my stories. However, walking through the imposing entrance way and following the guide through each stage of Begin’s life, I realized that I was a child of this time. I recognized the faces and know the names of many in the photographs. I was learning in Jerusalem the year Egyptian President Anwar Sadat came to Israel; only I and one friend from my school refused to join the crowds lining Rechov Yaffa to cheer his motorcade.

I felt the pain of those displaced from the destroyed city of Yamit in Sinai; I had camped in that beautiful rugged desert and felt the sand in my teeth. I stood next to a blown out Egyptian cannon at Sharm-el-Sheikh. I marched in rallies and Solidarity Sundays to push for the release of Soviet Jews — Jews whom Begin then welcomed to Israel. But above all, I felt the pride in Begin’s fierce love of the nation, the Torah, and the people and land of Israel. Begin went to the Kotel following his election and all his life he stood up for Israel against all odds; the pride when he bombed Osirak, when he brought in the Ethiopian Jews and when he saved the Vietnamese boat people. And the sadness when the death of his wife left him a crushed man.

Begin wanted to be remembered as a man who prevented civil war by pledging allegiance to the government when the state was declared and by calling on his forces not to return fire when the arms-laden Irgun ship, the Altalena, was fired upon by the Haganah. Begin was also a humble man: he asked to be buried not with the Israeli dignitaries on Mount Hertzl but on Har Hazaytim next to his wife Aliza and beside two martyrs of the British occupation who blew themselves up with a smuggled hand grenade rather than be hanged by the British.

When asked after his election what he wanted to be known for, he said, “Yehudi tov”: a good Jew.

One other thing: the museum is on the Hinnom Shoulder, an ancient crossroad of the Refaim and Ben-Hinnom Valleys. There are burial caves in an archaeological garden behind the museum dating to Bayit Rishon, the time of kings in Israel, about 2600 years ago. A silver pendant engraved with Birkat Cohanim and 95 skeletons and other artifacts were found there. After touring the museum, ask to see the garden.

By reservation only: The Menachem Begin Museum, 6 Nachon Street. Sunday-Thursday 9-4:30, Tuesday 9-7, Friday 9-12:30. Telephone 02-565-2020.

"Sounds and Prayers": An Exciting Unique Cultural Event

On August 22, 2010, a unique cultural event will take place at the Begin Center when outstanding entertainment star, and Eurovision contender, Kobi Oz, will appear together with Rabbi Dr. Micha Goodman as our poster announces below:-

The evening, entitled "Psalms for the Perplexed" will combine Oz's special music character and Rabbi Goodman's incisive and lively interpretations in a link-up of sounds and prayers.

Reservations obligatory: 02-5652011. 50 NIS entrance.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Month of Selichot at the Begin Center

The IDF runs a special program during the Hebrew month of Ellul, introducing the pratice and custms of Selichot to the soldiers:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On The Issue Of "Glorification" of Terrorism

From the Letters-to-the-Editor section of the Jerusalem Post:-

No comparison

Sir, – In relating to an interview with Sarah Agassi, the Irgun fighter who participated in the 1946 King David Hotel operation, Larry Derfner seeks to draw a parallel to local Arab terror.

Derfner proposes an equivalency standard: Their violence today is the same as Jewish violence then.

To honor, for example, Menachem Begin would in his eyes be “glorifying terror,” since that is what we call it when the Palestinian Authority honors its “heroes.”

We Israelis, Derfner asserts, are acting at the height of hypocrisy, and he writes that “if you justify or even ‘understand’ Begin’s and [Yitzhak] Shamir’s violence, you also have to justify or at least understand the violence of Muhammad Oudeh and Dalal Mughrabi.” Moreover, if we do not condemn the Irgun and Lehi violence, he claims, “then [we] have no principles at all.”

Whereas in the war for liberation against the British Mandatory regime both the Irgun and Lehi avoided civilian casualties to the fullest extent possible, Arab terror – as it does today – exclusively targeted civilians.

Whereas the British refused to negotiate, Israel has been negotiating for the past 43 years, to no avail. Whereas Begin, as Irgun commander, always had his fighters warn the British about upcoming actions, the Arabs never do. As these and other elements make clear, there is no comparison.

One more point: The Hagana as well as the Palmach also engaged in violence similar to that of the Irgun and Lehi. The loss of lives in such actions was regrettable, but in the war for the establishment of Israel and its liberation from the Mandatory regime, exceptions to the rule occurred. Derfner, however, avoids any mention of this violence perpetrated by the Zionist Left. Was that a personal prejudice?

Head, Menachem Begin Heritage Center

Sir, – Larry Derfner (“One man’s terrorist...,” July 28) argues that anyone who condemns Palestinian terror (e.g., the 1978 Coastal Road massacre), must also condemn actions by the Jewish underground (e.g., the 1946 King David Hotel bombing).

Unfortunately, he totally ignores a critical point: Not all violence is terrorism.

Terrorism is the threat or use of violence against civilians in order to engender fear in the general population. The Coastal Road massacre, directed against a purely civilian target with no conceivable military value, exemplifies terrorism. By launching thousands of rockets toward Israeli towns with no strategic or military significance, Hamas pursues a campaign of unmitigated terror.

Attacks on legitimate military targets are not terrorism, even if they result in unintended civilian casualties. The King David Hotel housed the British military command and its Criminal Investigation Division. The purpose of the attack was to neither kill civilians nor cause generalized fear. The aim was to destroy the part of the hotel containing intelligence records about Jewish underground organizations. While the Irgun could not have hoped to stand toe-to-toe against the British army, its attack on the hotel was an effort to undermine Britain’s military capabilities.

Jewish tit-for-tat bombing of Arab markets and other public places was terrorism, but blowing up bridges and railroad tracks certainly was not. On the Palestinian side, kidnapping Gilad Schalit was an act of war, and his subsequent horrendous treatment violates the fundamental rules of war. But this is not terrorism.

By asserting that one must condemn all violence equally or else “you have no principles at all,” Derfner strips the term “terrorism” of all meaning and consequence.

Worse, he negates modern rules of war that limit the types and amounts of weapons that may be used in a conflict.

Zichron Ya’akov
The writer is a fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

Sir, – Larry Derfner is way off base. First of all, Menachem Begin was fighting British soldiers who were hanging Jews fighting for their country. Second, he did not target civilians deliberately, which is the open polity of Arab suicide bombers.

Third, Begin was fighting to establish a Jewish state and save Jews.

If you want, you can claim that Samson, in pulling down the Philistine temple, was a suicide terrorist. Would Derfner not give him the right to avenge his blinding and humiliation?


Larry Derfner notes: As I wrote, the Etzel planted bombs in Arab markets and other public places, killing scores of civilians. It gave no warnings. Also, as everyone knows, Arab terrorists strike at both military and civilian targets.