Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Legacy of Menachem Begin

The Jerusalem Post editorial:-

Begin’s legacy

While Begin exercised political sagacity, he continued to hold to strong ideological principles, such as keeping the whole Land of Israel.

On the 20th anniversary of Menachem Begin’s death, many are revisiting the former prime minister’s important legacy.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Begin’s political leadership was his unique ability to bridge the gap between ideological purity and political realism, an important component of his ultimate political success.

It was in large part due to Begin’s pragmatism and moderation that violence was avoided immediately after the establishment of the State of Israel.

On June 6, 1948, the Hagana, under orders from David Ben-Gurion, fired upon and sank the Altalena, an arms ship belonging to the Irgun, the Revisionist Movement’s military arm headed by Begin. If not for Begin’s responsible leadership, the situation could easily have spiraled out of control and led to more bloodshed.

But Begin, essentially bowing to Ben-Gurion’s will and preferring compromise and moderation over stubborn pride, vowed there would be no civil war among Jews.

Throughout his long years in the opposition, Begin resolved to keep Herut, the party he formed with the establishment of the state, in the political mainstream.

To do so, he worked toward, and eventually succeeded in, moderating and incorporating some of the ideological purists of the Revisionist Movement and the Lehi (Freedom Fighters for Israel), or Stern Group, into Herut.

In 1965, Begin orchestrated an alignment with the centrist Liberal party to form Gahal (Herut-Liberal Bloc), which garnered 26 mandates in that year’s election.

It was the entry of Gahal into the Labor-led national-unity government just before the outbreak of the Six Day War that permanently freed Begin from his political isolation.

But while Begin exercised political sagacity, he continued to hold to strong ideological principles, such as the belief in keeping the whole Land of Israel, particular Judea and Samaria. In August 1970, he quit the government headed by Golda Meir to protest initial acceptance of the Rogers Plan, which included a ceasefire agreement with Egypt along the Suez Canal and would have brought the Soviet Union into peace negotiations on the side of the Arabs. Begin said he opposed the government’s formal acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is based on “peace for withdrawal,” including in Judea and Samaria.

After the devastating Yom Kippur War, with the Labor Party’s hegemony increasingly called into question, Begin joined forces with Ariel Sharon to mastermind the birth of the Likud out of Gahal and several smaller factions. His political savvy was vindicated in 1977 with the Likud’s electoral upset, overturning Labor’s decades-long monopoly on power.

Immediately upon entering office, Begin sent out signals to his Arab neighbors that he was prepared to enter into a peace agreement. Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, apparently sensed that Begin was a strong ruler capable of making peace, and answered his overtures. Misnamed the Sadat initiative, the resulting 1979 Peace Treaty was in reality a product of Begin’s push for peace.

Perhaps Begin’s unique ability to bridge the gap between ideological purity and political realism can be attributed to his liberal ideological roots. Like his mentor, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Begin believed strongly in maintaining a robust liberal democracy that protected free speech and the human rights of both Jews and non- Jews. As far back as 1956, Begin demanded that the Knesset “not legislate any law that limits freedom of expression, orally or in writing.”

He strongly opposed Emergency Defense Regulations dating back to the British Mandate, which severely restricted Arab Israelis’ basic freedoms in the decades after the War of Independence. He also pushed for a strong and independent Supreme Court – though he never supported judicial activism. And he was instrumental in facilitating the appointment of the nation’s first Arab Supreme Court Justice. Begin’s readiness to champion the rights of minorities was probably bolstered by his experiences as a Jew living in Poland between the two world wars and later as a Zionist activist in Palestine under British rule.

Begin’s unique combination of political pragmatism and moderation are an important legacy. We can only hope that our contemporary politicians learn from his example.


Begin and the Media

Begin and the media

by Yaakov Ahimeir

These days, many of us are thinking about newscasters [following the resignation of Yair Lapid and Yaakov Eilon], and especially about who will take a seat at the news desk and who will disappear from our daily routines during prime time. Marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Israel’s sixth Prime Minister Menachem Begin this week also gives us an excuse to focus on the other side of the desk, on the guests who sit opposite the newscasters.

Begin was a master of performance in front of the camera, in his appearances before the nation. Since disappearing from public office until today, he has remained unparalleled in this realm. I have no doubt that this was due, in part, to his sense of being persecuted and from engaging in numerous debates throughout his political career. He argued with his rival Ze’ev Jabontinsky for a short part of his public life and with David Ben-Gurion for many years. This opposition only sharpened Begin’s rhetorical talents in his appearances on television.

One could say that when television broadcasts began airing in Israel, Begin eagerly took on this new media, which quickly spread to households throughout the country. The new technology also helped shape Begin the politician into the prepared and polished man ready for debates that ultimately helped him be elected prime minister. Begin did not need any training or consultations in this realm. He had charisma – a magic touch that could be felt as two people previously unfamiliar with one another faced off.

Did anyone among the masses who came to hear his speeches in city squares know him personally? Even when television broadcasts became routine, Begin remained attached to newspapers, grumbling about criticism he perceived as unjust and even writing articles for the newspaper Herut (Freedom). Although marginal, this is one similarity between Begin and Ben-Gurion, who also wrote articles, sometimes under the pen name S.S. Yariv (standing for Saba Shel Yariv, “the opponent’s grandfather” in Hebrew). Begin did not hide behind pen names. In television interviews, Begin always conquered his interviewer. Whether interviewers, including this writer, asked difficult questions, tried to outsmart him or even play dumb, Begin responded with a sharp, sometimes sarcastic, tongue that often embarrassed his interviewer. At the same time, Begin was always polite, even if his response was tinged with sarcasm, which helped dissolve the charged atmosphere that developed in the studio.

It is worth noting that Begin’s relationship to the press, even abroad, was hostile. His election to office aroused fears, as some commentators had previously characterized him as a war monger and did not shy away from injecting anti-Semitic sentiments into their descriptions of Begin. Begin had been so concerned about his international reception that he dispatched his close associate, Shmuel Katz, to reassure international officials concerned about Begin’s moves. But the media offered Begin praise in the honeymoon period created between Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which produced a peace with Egypt. Even today, veteran journalists such as myself fondly remember that era’s shining star of the small screen.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Minister for Foreign Affairs on Importance of Begin

Lieberman: Important for Ministry to Study Begin

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry are scheduled to visit the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, Monday, to mark the 20th anniversary of the prime minister's passing on the Hebrew calendar. Lieberman said, Sunday, "There's great importance, especially at the Foreign Ministry, to study the legacy of Begin, who was an example of the combination of statesman, politician and fighter."

The deputy prime minister added, in a statment, "Like Begin, Israeli representatives around the world must not be deterred by the delegitimization campaign our enemies are trying to wage against Israel, and must fight for the truth until [we achieve] victory."


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Begin From the State Archived


Menachem Begin was the first prime minister to have a formal legal qualification, although he never practiced as a lawyer. His legal education left a deep impression on him. It created one of the important aspects of his world view, and influenced many of his actions in foreign and domestic policy. He ensured that none of his public activities exceeded the limits of the law, and that they conformed to the decisions of the judicial system.

As prime minister, Begin determined that the law and the judicial system always stand above the government. "There are judges in Jerusalem", he declared, after the Supreme Court accepted the state's position on the expropriation of land for the Beit El settlement, in 1978. In addition, he took a great interest in the exact text of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

In 1977, during the first months of his term of office, Begin also served as the minister of justice. During that time he recommended to President Ephraim Katzir to pardon Yehoshua Ben-Zion, on the grounds of his serious illness. Ben-Zion was the managing director of the Israel-British Bank.  Following the collapse of the bank in July 1974, he was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 12 years in prison. In view of the public criticism, in September 1977 Begin explained to Yoel Zussman, the president
of the Supreme Court, why he had decided to recommend the pardon (Document
No. 1 (in Hebrew), ISA/G/9565/1).

Although a fervent supporter of the Greater Israel ideology, as a follower of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist leader, Begin demanded full equality for Arab citizens within the borders of Israel. One of the expressions of that belief was his support for nominating an Arab judge to the Supreme Court. He first raised the idea when serving as minister without portfolio in Levi Eshkol's government, shortly after the Six Day War in 1967. His adviser on Arab affairs, Dr. Moshe Sharon, proposed appointing an Arab judge from one of the District Courts to the Supreme Court, and in
October 1977 Begin replied to his proposal (Document 2 (in Hebrew), ISA/ G9566/9), but the appointment was never made. It was only in 1999 that an Arab judge, Abd er-Rachman a-Zouabi, received a temporary
appointment to the Supreme Court for the first time. In 2004 Salim Joubran was appointed to the Supreme Court (after a temporary term in 2003).

According to the peace treaty with Egypt signed in March 1979, Israel was required to evacuate all of Sinai, including its military and air force bases. Israel built new military bases in the Negev desert, including airfields, with American aid, and land previously held by Israeli Bedouin was expropriated for that purpose. At the beginning of April 1979 heavy equipment owned by the Public Works Department arrived at a location near a-Lagia to construct a road, despite the fact that Bedouin who claimed ownership of the land had earlier appealed to the Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice), which had issued an injunction against the expropriation and the beginning of construction. In addition, the police summoned the Bedouin leaders in the area to the nearest police station on the morning that construction started, thus preventing them from acting against it.

Prof. Yitzhak Zamir, the attorney-general, took disciplinary measures against the civil servants involved in violating the injunction. Some received a written reprimand and some were summoned to a disciplinary court. Chief among them was the commissioner of the Southern district in the Ministry of the Interior. Several ministers, led by Minister of the Interior Dr. Josef Burg, came to his defence, claiming that he did not know of the Supreme Court injunction.

The government discussed the issue on 29 April. Dr. Burg, who was abroad, was represented by Chaim Kubersky, director-general of the Ministry of the Interior, who read out a letter written by Burg. However, Begin declared:

"The attorney-general in the State of Israel has a special status. I don't believe that this status is based on a specific law. Due to that status, the government does not interfere in the Attorney-General's decisions." The
government would issue a statement that it "espouses the principle of the superiority of the law over all bodies in the executive branch, including the government itself" (Document 3 (in Hebrew), ISA/A/ 4273/3). It should be noted that the disciplinary court exonerated the commissioner of the Southern district and his colleagues in July 1980.


The Video Clip of the Begin Run

The Begin Run took place on Friday, February 24, 2012 with some 1400 partcipants in two lengths: 8 and 16 kilometers:


Begin Saves Uri Avnery


... In his first extensive interview after coming to power in 1977, Menachem Begin disclosed that 20 years earlier, when Isser Harel (nicknamed “little Isser”) was in charge of all Israeli security services, he proposed to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to put me in administrative detention as a Soviet spy. Harel had a pathological hatred for me and later wrote a whole book about it.

The accusation was quite ridiculous, because I have never in my life been a communist, nor even a Marxist. At the same time that Arthur Koestler wrote his ground-breaking book “Darkness at Noon” I, then a teenager, thought that something must be very wrong with a system which condemns almost all its founders as imperialist spies. Later, whenever an Israeli delegation was invited to Soviet Russia, the KGB struck my name out. (Viewers of the excellent British TV series “Spooks” will recognize at once that this is exactly the hallmark of a master spy.)

Ben-Gurion was not one of my greatest fans, or, to put it simply, he hated my guts. Since I attacked him every week, that was quite understandable. However, he was also a shrewd politician and was afraid that my arrest might cause a scandal. Therefore he told Harel that before arresting me, he should enlist the support of Begin, the leader of the largest opposition party.

Begin told him: “If you have evidence, please show it to me. If not, I shall fight against your scheme tooth and nail.” Ben-Gurion dropped the idea, and Begin sent his most trusted lieutenant to warn me.

If Begin had supported my arrest, who would have doubted that the Shabak had solid proof of my treachery? My voice would have been silenced, my magazine destroyed.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

From the Haaretz Special on Menachem Begin

The Haaretz Magazine Section devoted considerable attention to the 20th anniversary of Menachem Begin's passing:


Begin the Compass by Ya'akov Ahimeir

Shlomo Nakdimon on the decision to resign

On aspects of the Mizrachi support

Begin's attutude towards a free press

Yossi Sarid's opinion

On his complexity

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Begin Run Is This Friday - Is The Mufti Referring To It?

*(The Begin Run route is here. So the Mufti is referring to the real marathon, and that route is here.)


Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem, warned of the political undertones of holding a marathon in the disputed city and accused Israeli occupation of using a sports event to further the Judaization of the occupied territories. “The marathon is one more attempt by Israeli occupation to erase the Arab identity of Jerusalem,” Hussein, who is also the imam of al-Aqsa Mosque, said in a statement. The Jerusalem Marathon, he added, is not a sports event but another political tool to prove Israel’s dominance in the city, especially its predominantly Arab neighborhoods.

“The same will be later applied to all Palestinian territories.”

Hussein called upon Palestinians inside and outside the Occupied Territories as well as all activists who support the Palestinian cause to intervene to end the Israeli Occupation’s policy of devising all possible means to deny the existence of Palestinians.

“Efforts on the official, diplomatic, and sports levels should be made to prevent this from happening.”

...“They use the Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and other holy sites in East Jerusalem as part of the propaganda for the marathon to give the world the impression that all those places belong to Israel.”

Hussein also expressed his reservation to using the name of Jerusalem in the marathon and which makes it officially an Israeli city.  The Popular National Council for Jerusalem also condemned the marathon and objected to its planned route.

The marathon, the council explained in a statement, will go right through the Old City as runners will enter from Jaffa Gate and will exist from Zion Gate.

The marathon, the statement added, will also pass by the Arab neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz and Sheikh Jarah and will reach the borders of the town of al-Issawiya, which Israel wants to seize to build a national park.

The council agreed with the mufti as far as using sports for political gains is concerned and called upon all Arab and foreign activists and rights organizations to declare solidarity with the Palestinian people and to condemn the Judaization of Jerusalem.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

(kippah/tip to D Seidmann)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Former Begin Cabinet Secretary on Future of Egypt-Israerl Peace Treaty

Current Minister for Intelligence Agencies Dan Meridor, a former cabinet secretary during Prime Minister Menachyem Begin's second government, has indicated that if Egypt changes the peace treaty, Israel may rule out future deals.

From the story:-

If Cairo unilaterally decides to alter the peace treaty with Jerusalem, Israel will ask why sign agreements with other neighbors if these accords are not kept, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said Monday.

Meridor, speaking at a press conference organized by The Israel Project, said that "objectively" there is no reason for either Israel or Egypt to change the peace agreement that has served both sides for more than 30 years.

"If people are rational and act for the good of their country, both Israel and Egypt should keep the agreement," Meridor said. Meridor added that Israel has had no contact with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the party that won the recent parliamentary elections there.

...Meridor bemoaned the Palestinian Authority's decision to sign a unity agreement with Hamas in Doha. He called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to demonstrate the "courage" to accept a demilitarized Palestinian state, and that if he did not, it would be "another missed
opportunity that will be bad for us, but worse for them."

Meridor repeated his position, which is not the government's policy, that Israel should "harmonize" its settlement policy with the diplomatic process, meaning that it should build in the large settlement blocs that it hopes to retain in any future agreement, but not build everywhere else in Judea and


Friday, February 17, 2012

Preserving All of History

Appeared in the February 10, 2012 issue of the Jerusalem Post's "In Jerusalem":-


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1981 / 2012; Begin / Netanyahu

From a report in Israel Hayom:

Three decades ago, an Israeli prime minister faced his Cabinet and invoked the Holocaust in an emotional appeal to approve an air strike against an Arab atomic reactor.  Menachem Begin got the nod, cautioning that a nuclear-armed Iraq under Saddam Hussein would pose a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. On June 7, 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed the nuclear facility near Baghdad.

The current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would also need ministerial backing, from his 15-member Security Cabinet, should he seek to attack Iran, despite Washington’s warnings of the risks to the global economy and U.S. regional interests...

...In 1981, Begin kept both the Knesset plenum and a key parliamentary security panel in the dark about the planned F-16 sneak attack, explaining later that he could not trust lawmakers not to leak details to the media.

The air force chief at the time, David Ivry, said the mission was approved by the Security Cabinet and then the full Cabinet, with all present being asked to sign secrecy contracts.

“First came the approval in principle, and then the detailed discussions and briefings,” Ivry told Reuters.

A briefing paper presented to Begin’s Cabinet ministers by Israeli military intelligence cautioned that Washington might respond to an attack against Iraq by clamping an arms embargo on Israel, according to “Tammuz in Flames,” a 1993 book on the operation by Israeli journalist Shlomo Nakdimon, whose manuscript was reviewed by close Begin aides.

But with just one holdout, and over opposition by Israel’s Mossad spy chief, the ministers voted in favor of the attack, which destroyed the French-built reactor without the loss of a single Israeli plane.

“The memory of the Holocaust in which six million Jews perished remained before [Begin’s] eyes throughout all the discussions,” Moshe Nissim, a Cabinet minister at the time, wrote in his own book about the strike.

“He underscored the fact that this action was saving thousands of Israeli children from the claws of the Butcher of Baghdad,” Nissim wrote.

Israel’s official statement on the 1981 air raid spoke of the need to eliminate “an existential threat to the people of Israel,” language echoed by Netanyahu, who has said the Holocaust has taught the Jewish state it must not shy from acting alone to thwart any danger to its survival...

To cast the net of consensus further, Netanyahu would almost certainly convene Israel’s centrist opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, to notify her of his plans and ask for her support.

Learning of plans for the strike against Iraq’s reactor, Shimon Peres, Labor opposition leader at the time and now Israeli president, cautioned Begin that Israel would be isolated internationally, “like a thistle in the desert,” if the attack went ahead.

As opposition leader in 2007, Likud party chief Netanyahu was reportedly consulted about the Syria strike by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Though Netanyahu lacks chemistry with Livni, as a former Cabinet minister and Mossad spy she would not be viewed as a leak risk.

Three decades ago, Begin took no such chances.

Israeli warplanes were already on their way to Iraq when Begin, who also served as defense minister, summoned his Cabinet to his Jerusalem residence. Although the ministers had approved the operation, they had agreed that only Begin, his foreign minister and top generals would decide when to launch the raid.

“Shalom, my friends,” Begin told them, according to Nakdimon’s account. “At this moment, our planes are approaching Baghdad and the first one will be over the atomic reactor shortly.”

Saturday, February 4, 2012

From Odessa to Tel Aviv, From Jabotinsky to Begin

From a lecture by JOACHIM SCHLĂ–R: ‘ ‘ON THE THIRD HAND…’ - News from a Rediscovered Civilisation in Memories of Odessa:

...Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the journalist and newspaper essayist, was later to become the founder of the revisionist movement within Zionism. The contribution made by the Revisionists – who wanted to ‘return’ to the principles of the Basle Programme and the creation of a home for the Jews in the whole of Palestine, and were prepared to fight for that state – to the founding not only of Tel-Aviv but also of the state of Israel as a whole is a little-researched, unpopular topic: people are nowadays too quick to denounce Jabotinsky as the spiritual father of the ‘terrorists’ surrounding Menachem Begin, and so to consign him to oblivion. But the “brilliant journalist and lecturer,” whose portrait Arthur Koestler has drawn, was an early advocate of an unsentimental view of urban development, an approach shorn of mythology and oriented towards the Western liberal model. “He was brought up,” Koestler writes, “in the enlightened atmosphere of cosmopolitan Odessa, a stranger to Jewish tradition,” and on the basis of that
experience he opposed all those who wanted to build Tel-Aviv “as a kind of glorified ghetto, without the restrictions but with the traditions and atmosphere of the ghetto – and even the architecture of the ghetto, which the first colonists piously imitated.”3

Jabotinsky tried to transfer the liberal spirit of Odessa to Tel-Aviv. On the occasion of the 1929 Levant Fair he wrote that the organisers of the event,
“the group of young men who cluster around the Moshar v-Tassi,” had, at an early stage, already believed in the possibility of industrial development in the Land. It was this belief that the fairs symbolised – in the design of their pavilions and kiosks, in their aggressive, outward-directed activity, in their high regard for trade because it alone could forge the necessary links and contacts to enable the country to take its place in the international network of commercial forces:

The army of Jewish merchants scattered all over the world are our natural comrades, it is they who hold in their hands the fate of Palestine’s industry. We must not shut our eyes to the essential importance of this task. We have been influenced a little too much by the ringing rhetoric of what our friends in Germany call ‘Umschichtung’ [restructuring], a dream of creating a nation which should consist only of farmers and labourers without a single merchant among them. We took up cheap catchwords such as the merchant is only a ‘superfluous intermediary’, a sort of barrier between producer and consumer […]. Trade is the basis of all economic progress, of all communal, national and social development. And up till now the world has invented no better instrument able to assume this stupendous task […] than the individual merchant.

...The threads which once held together the cities of Europe have been cut. A road junction: here, in a dilapidated house barely supported by long wooden poles, Jabotinsky lived. At 17 he was already writing for Odessa Novosti; in 1903 he reported on the pogroms in Kishinev. Across the road lived Dizengoff, the future mayor of Tel-Aviv. Both were among the organizers of a Jewish self-defence group which in 1905 was able to prevent the pogroms from spreading to the district of Moldavanka in Odessa. Both men
were changed by the terrible news of the pogroms, and for both of them the founding of the Jewish self-defence organization was the first step of a journey that was to take them away from here, to somewhere new. In a small street: “Here modern Israel was born.” The two women look at Mr Merkulenko very dubiously. But here, at number 12, lived Leon Pinsker,
author of the pamphlet published in Berlin, and in German, entitled Auto-Emancipation. Pinsker, a doctor, joined the Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion],
held meetings here, and from here, in 1882, sent the first group ofg Biluim on their way to Palestine – the pioneers of the future state.4

3 Arthur Koestler, Arrow in the Blue. An Autobiography (London, Glasgow, 1952), pp.
4 ‘The Manufacturer and the Merchant’. Speech by Mr V. Jabotinsky at the Manufacturers’
Conference, Palestine and Near East Economic Magazine. The IVth Palestine and Near East
Exhibition and Fair. Festivities in Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Founding of Tel-Aviv (Tel-Aviv, Palestine, 7th–30th April, 1929), pp. 183–5.


More Egyptian Opposition to Camp David Reported

An Iranian new agency reports that

Egyptian Party Stresses Necessity for Revising Camp David Accord

TEHRAN (FNA)- A leading Egyptian political party lashed out at Tel Aviv for breaching the Camp David Accord, and stressed the necessity for revising the treaty.

"Since the accord has emphasized establishment of peace in the region and unfortunately Israel has not implement it, the treaty should be revised and the conditions demanded by the Egyptian side should be implemented as soon as possible," Spokesman of Wafd Party Mohamed Mostafa Shardi told FNA on Saturday.

"While establishment of peace in the Middle-East can no doubt be expected if only Israel feels bound by the implementation of the articles of the Camp David Accord, Israel has never been committed to the treaty since it was
signed," he added...

...Speaking to FNA in Cairo in January, spokesman of the Salafi al-Nour party rejected reports about a meeting between the party's leaders and Israel's ambassador to Egypt, and described the reports as smear campaign to defame
the Islamist party..."Al-Nour is against the establishment of any relations with the Zionist regime," he stated.

...Early in December, a senior member of the Egyptian Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood) party underlined the necessity for revising Camp David Accord between Cairo and Tel Aviv, describing the pact as "cruel"...


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

American Likud "Begin Award" to Donald Rumsfeld

From this news item:-

Rumsfeld ‘Amazed’ by Washington Treatment of Israel, Vice Premier Highlights ‘Conceptual Failure’

...Vice Prime Minister Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon completed an intense journey to the United States during the fourth week of January. His voice was adamantly raised in defense of Israel.

On his final day of this trip to the United States, Ya’alon spoke in consultation with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations focusing on the Palestinian Authority campaign to “delegitimize, isolate and even prosecute Israel in international forums, including the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.” Current conditions in Gaza, and Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapon facilities and responses needed “to keep pressure on the regime” were among the topics discussed

...Ya’alon had expressed similar sentiments in his speech the night before at the annual gathering of the American Friends of Likud. In an atmosphere of shared purpose and camaraderie, Awardee Revital Azulay dedicated her honor to the work and devotion of the Young leadership of the AFL. She stressed the value of education in the development of Jewish identity.

The Hon. Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Finance Minister, a former professor of philosophy, has successfully maintained Israel’s financial stability despite deeply troubled international economic conditions. Steinmetz expressed his appreciation to “all of the friends of Likud – really friends of Israel …it’s always wonderful to be among friends,” he mused.

...Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld found the AFL gathering an appreciative audience. The Secretary said the United States “looks to Israel for lessons in fighting terrorism – based on her many years of experience.” He praised Israel’s economic reliance as “a testimony to a country welcoming of investment and enterprise.”

In accepting the Menachem Begin Award, Rumsfeld praised Prime Minister Netanyahu as one to whom the adjective “courage” applies. America had benefited from his counsel to “be more deliberate in coalition building: the mission must determine the coalition, not the coalition determines the mission.”

Mr. Rumsfeld elicited an especially warm response, stating “I am proud to stand with the American Friends of Likud, especially as some distance themselves from Israel. In my over 79 years, I have seen strange things done in name of diplomacy. Even I find it amazing to watch Washington’s current treatment of Israel.” He continued “you have a great many friends in the United States. I know that millions across the US appreciate and support the Israeli people…. Israel is not the cause for the region’s turmoil. The United States knows the miracle that is the Jewish State….For Israel, courage is a necessity.” Secretary Rumsfeld concluded his remarks saying “Americans eventually make the right choice. Our people will stand with Israel – as we should and as we must.” All assembled rose as the room resounded with appreciation and applause.


Book Review on J Auerbach's Altalena Book

From Altalena story revisited by Rabbi Jack Riemer in the Florida Jewish Journal on BROTHERS AT WAR by Jerold S. Auerbach:-

The past has been present lately, especially among right-wing Zionists. First, Moshe Arens of the Likud wrote a book arguing that the members of Betar fought as bravely as the left-wing Zionists in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. And now, Jerold Auerbach has written a book reexaming the story of the Altalena...In this version of what happened, Menachem Begin comes out as the hero, and Ben Gurion comes out as the villain. Auerbach claims that Begin sincerely believed that some compromise could be worked out, and that he was stunned by Ben Gurion's decision to destroy the boat. To his eternal credit, Begin refused to permit his followers to fire back, because he would not allow Jews to fight against Jews, especially at a time when six Arab armies were fighting against Israel. And this book is an effort to set the historical record straight and to place the blame where Auerbach believes it belongs — on Ben Gurion and on the young officer, Yitzchak Rabin, who carried out the order to fire on the Altalena.

Why is the story of the Altalena so topical today? Because it raises the issue that Israel may have to confront once again in our time. Are there limits to what a government can do to its own people? Are there limits to what protesters can do against a government policy? What happens when the fabric of society is split apart by drastic actions and counter actions?

...What is the legitimacy of a government that uses brutal tactics against those who challenge it? How can you tell when a government is defending its legitimate powers and when it is using excessive force in order to crush its opposition and maintain itself in power?

...These are the kinds of questions that the sinking of the Altalena raised in Israel for the first time and that are now on the minds and hearts of Israelis. For the left, the Altalena established the principle that there can only be one government and one army in Israel.

For the right, the Altalena was a model of self restraint by a group that naively believed that the government was negotiating with them in good faith and was betrayed.

Who knows where the truth lies? Auerbach makes a very good case in this book for the right wing version of what happened. Many in Israel believe the left wing version of what happened. But everyone in Israel agrees that nothing like the Altalena must ever be allowed to happen again. Whoever is right on what happened that day, the Altalena remains as a warning to the settlers and to the soldiers and to the haredim that there are limits to what a country can allow from dissidents and it remains as a warning to the government and to the army that there is a limit to what a government can impose upon people who disagree.