Friday, September 13, 2013

The Post-Resigntation Letters of Appreciation

Letters to Menachem Begin go on display

Thirty years after his resignation as prime minister, letters from world leaders thanking him or asking him to reconsider go on display • Nixon: "I always respected you for your intelligence, your courage and, if I may use the vernacular, your guts." 

Mati Tuchfeld

Thirty years after Menachem Begin announced his resignation as prime minister with the words "I can't take it any more," the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem is putting on display a collection of letters from senior officials in Israel and the world expressing their regret at his decision. Some of the authors pleaded with him to change his decision, which he reached following the events of the First Lebanon War and the passing of his wife Aliza.

In a letter delivered to Begin a short while after his resignation on Sept. 15, 1983, former U.S. President Richard Nixon wrote: "Except for the brief meetings in 1974 in Jerusalem and in Cairo at [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat's funeral, I have not had the privilege of knowing you well. But I always respected you for your intelligence, your courage and, if I may use the vernacular, your guts. I trust your successor will be able to fill the very big shoes you will have left behind."
Other senior American officials also sent Begin letters, among them Sen. John Glenn, the first astronaut to circle the Earth. 
"In light of your resignation I am writing you of my appreciation for your 50 years of service to the Jewish people and for Israel. Your place in history is secure in light of your heroism during the signing at Camp David," Glenn wrote.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, a World War II hero, wrote: "Although some have treated you rather harshly, I am convinced that historians will record your service to Israel with much favor and approval."
In Israel, one of the more surprising letters came from former MK Yohanan Bader, the founder of the Herut party and one of Begin's biggest rivals. 
"The result of the elections could determine the fate of the settlements," Bader wrote. "I am certain that your return to the head of the movement and the party list and your contribution to the election campaign can decide the results. And if you have the strength -- come back!"
Another special letter was written by Miri Nattaf from France, who said: "I was 10 when I visited Tel Aviv with my class. Suddenly I saw you, Mr. Begin, and I screamed with excitement, and you stroked my head, asked me my name and gave me a candy. This is a picture I will never forget. Today I am 33. Mr. Begin, even in these difficult hours your distinguished character is unforgettable ... I learned from you that simplicity is wisdom."
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