Thursday, May 31, 2012

Begin and the Beaufort on the Litani

From Shay Fogelman's Three decades later, new reports shed light on IDF's iconic battle in Lebanon:- The IDF conquest of the Beaufort in 1982 lasted just hours but the battle over the legitimacy of the attack, which left 6 soldiers dead, still rages.

“You can feel fresh mountain air here. Divine,” then Prime Minister Menachem Begin poeticized to his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, just after he stepped out of the helicopter that took him to the foot of the Beaufort fortress in southern Lebanon.

It was the morning of June 7, 1982, the second day of the first Lebanon war and a few hours after the end of one of the bitterest and most controversial battles of that war. The bodies of the six soldiers who were killed in the assault on Beaufort had already been removed, and all of the wounded had been evacuated. Only a few blood-soaked dressings skittered around in the wind, until they were caught on the barbed-wire fences that encircled the area. Some of those present at the time remember that the smell of gunpowder still lingered in the air.
“Begin was euphoric, he was radiant with joy,” television reporter Amos Carmeli, who covered the premier’s visit, recently told Haaretz. “Begin saw the event as a historic moment and was very emotional.”
Carmeli remembers that during the entire visit, he did not hear Begin or anyone in his entourage say a word about the casualties of the battle. “Begin was very inquisitive and had a lot of questions, but that subject did not come up, not during the flight and not while we were on Beaufort. Toward the end of the visit he asked to observe the Galilee Panhandle. He admired the view and especially the topographic dominance of the place.”
In the wake of Carmeli’s report, which was broadcast that evening ‏(Israel only had state television at the time‏), the first questions about the necessity of the war and its conduct were raised. The report was imprinted in the public memory mainly because of Begin’s question to commando officer Tamir Massad: “Did they have machine guns?” The young second lieutenant replied, “They had pretty big machine guns here.” Sharon is seen standing between the two, scarcely able to conceal a smile at the bizarre dialogue, which went on for a few more minutes.
The next day’s newspapers speculated that there seemed to be a disconnect between the prime minister, the army and the defense minister. Two days later, when the human cost of taking Beaufort became known, the suspicions became accusations. The struggle by the parents to find out the truth about those killed in the battle was one of the principal begetters of the protest movement which later formed against both the war and the 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
“The conquest of Beaufort was assigned to the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit long before the war,” former deputy chief of staff Moshe Kaplinsky recently told Haaretz. He was appointed commander of the unit a few weeks earlier, in 1982, replacing Goni Harnik, who had completed his army service. “The unit operated permanently in Northern Command and knew the terrain and the target well.”
In the months leading up to the war, the unit’s soldiers practiced a large number of scenarios for capturing the fortress...
Kaplinsky was seriously wounded by a bullet even before the various forces reached Beaufort, and Harnik, who was summoned to replace him, was lightly wounded when an APC overturned while trying to join the unit. Afterward, the tank platoon, which was manned by young soldiers from a training course, got bogged down and did not reach their target, along with some of the APCs. The fortress itself turned out to be more difficult to take than had been anticipated, and the trenches surrounding it deeper and narrower than the soldiers expected. In the end, the site was conquered by a small force on foot and in the dark.
Harnik, the former commander of the reconnaissance unit, returned from his discharge leave and took command in the midst of battle, after Kaplinsky was wounded. Harnik was killed while mopping up the trenches on the north side of the fort...According to most of the testimonies over the years, there were a number of cases of friendly fire during the battle. An officer was wounded in at least one such exchange. The soldiers who were there remained silent for 30 years about the circumstances of the death of one of their buddies, for fear of the effect on his parents if they knew the details.
Beaufort, in which there were three main positions spread across 500 meters, was conquered in a little more than two hours. The Kastel Force of the Palestine Liberation Organization was well dug in and heavily armed there. Contrary to expectations, its men fought fiercely, some of them to the last bullet. Apparently only a few fled after the battle started. According to some testimonies, 15 bodies were found afterward, though others say there were 24.
“I heard about it in an incidental conversation with my driver a few weeks after the war,” Kahalani says now − referring to the first time he heard there was a controversy about whether the conquest of Beaufort had been necessary. “He told me that someone had said to him that there was no need to take Beaufort at all, or something like that. I shrugged it off. I told him, ‘Forget that nonsense, it’s just idle talk.’ It was only after the war that I realized how deeply that libel had penetrated.” Kahalani also hints that because of the allegations raised against him in connection with the battle for Beaufort, he was denied a promotion to the rank of major general...The GOC Northern Command, Amir Drori, “tried to postpone the Golani attack. The chief of staff [Rafael Eitan] happened to be in the command’s war room when the subject came up, and he personally confirmed the postponement. Drori issued an order not to go through with the Beaufort operation that night, but for some reason it never reached the Golani commando [unit]. The order was simply swallowed up, misplaced or forgotten somewhere down the line.”...
...The first rationale presented by the IDF for conquering the Beaufort can be gleaned from the short exchange between Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Sharon at the foot of the fortress, as captured by journalist Carmeli. “This is one of the greatest achievements,” Sharon told Begin. “This place constituted ...,” Sharon continued but was cut off by Begin. “... An open wound. We had an open wound,” the prime minister said. Sharon nodded and added, “A nuisance, a danger for years upon years.”
The Beaufort fortress was indeed a nuisance − and a danger. But the main threat it posed was to the Christian enclave in southern Lebanon and less to the Israeli north. The assessment of most of the intelligence officers who were interviewed for this article is that no missiles were ever fired from the Beaufort at Israel, in contrast to the view generally held by the public.
...There are hardly any references to the Beaufort in the Israeli press during the period between Operation Litani ‏(1978‏) and the Lebanon War in 1982. However, it is mentioned dozens of times in the Lebanese and international press, mostly in connection with the threat posed to the Christian villages below the site...From its heights, he noted, the Palestinians dominated not only the border with Israel but mainly the area of Lebanon controlled by Haddad and his Israeli-backed militia.
The second justification given by the army for capturing the Beaufort can be derived from the war plan of Northern Command. The Beaufort is situated in the center of a ridge that overlooks the Litani River from about 800 meters, which is why the Crusaders built the fortress and why it has seen so many battles throughout the years...Someone seems to have exaggerated the importance of the fortress. A perusal of the intelligence files about the site which were prepared in Northern Command before the war indicates that the Palestinian fighters in that area were incapable of doing damage to the tank division that was moving toward them, even if the former had the topographical advantage.
...The weakness of the military justifications for capturing the Beaufort raises the possibility that there were other rationales for the campaign, which the army is not inclined to talk about. First, there were considerations of a political nature. In the act of launching the war, Begin and Sharon wanted to bring the government at least one winning card, and the Beaufort was perfectly suited for that role. Its historic importance, its massive presence and the lofty status accorded the fortress by the Palestinian forces made it a very desirable target for Begin and Sharon...

...even before the world learned about the capture of the Beaufort, The Washington Post published an article which tried to examine the war’s goals. The writers claimed that Begin’s stated ambition − to push the Palestinian forces dozens of kilometers to the north, taking Israel out of their range − would not be so simple to achieve...Sneh rejects vehemently the theory that one reason Israel captured the Beaufort was to improve relations with Haddad and his militia. However, other officers who were interviewed for this article do not rule this out so vigorously. The relationship between Haddad and the IDF was critical for the future of the security zone in that period.
...The New York Times noted in the wake of the ceremony that Israel was trying to create a buffer zone under the control of Haddad’s militia. Prime Minister Begin had marked the start of that process by giving Haddad a prize in the form of the Beaufort, the paper said. Haddad’s men soon abandoned the site, which was manned again in 1985, by Israel, when the IDF withdrew into the security zone.
“On the flight back to Safed, Begin talked enthusiastically about the Beaufort nonstop,” journalist Carmeli recalls. “He asked us to hurry, because he wanted to get to the cabinet meeting which had been planned for him in Jerusalem and tell the ministers what he had seen personally. We landed in Safed. I asked Begin’s staff to get the films to the television studios in Jerusalem and sat down to record a voice-over for the report. In the meantime, the security guards and the members of the entourage went to pick up their bags, and Begin remained alone at the helipad. I looked at him. It was a very sad moment. He sat on a wobbly, shaky, maybe even rusty chair, holding his cane loosely and nodding off, his head tilted back. He was very tired. Suddenly he also looked very old. Inappropriate for the image of prime minister leading a whole nation and army into war.”
In later years, Rafael Eitan, chief of staff during the war, related that Begin was so eager to capture the Beaufort that at times this seemed to bother him more than the fear that the IDF was close to engaging with Syrian forces.
According to the testimony of officers in Northern Command, before Begin left the war room on the night before his visit to the Beaufort, he ordered his aides to wake him at any hour of the Beaufort were captured. The next day, the Newsweek reporter who covered the war from Israel wrote that at 2 A.M. one of the premier’s aides woke Begin up to say the Beaufort was in Israeli hands. Begin apparently said, “Go to Sharon, give him a hug for me and tell him that from now on I will finally be able to sleep peacefully.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Conference: 30 Years Since the Lebanon War

Conference: 30 Years Since the Lebanon War

On Wednesday, May 30, a conference will be held on the topic of the first Lebanon War. Hosted by the Begin Heritage Center in cooperation with the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies (WEBSITE) and the Argov Center for the Study of the Jewish people and Israel (WEBSITE).

The conference will take place at BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY

Feldman Conference Center (Building 301)

2:00 pm The Lebanese Arena in the Past
Chair: Mr. Amos Hermon, Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA Center, Greetings
Maj. Gen. (res.) Dr. Emanuel Sakal, BESA Center, Milestones in Israeli Counterterrorism
Prof. Avi Kober, BESA Center, Strategic Aspects of the War
Dr. Udi Lebel, Ariel University Center, The Impact of Warfare in Lebanon on Israel's Strategic Culture
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, BESA Center, Lebanon: Between French Dreams and Iranian Nightmares

3:45 pm The Lebanese Arena Today

Chair: Dr. Jonathan Rynhold, BESA Center and Argov Center
Mr. Gideon Argov, Greetings
Prof. Moshe Arens, Former Minister of Defense and BESA Center International Advisory Board member, Lebanon and Israel National Security
Prof. Eyal Zisser, Tel Aviv University, Current Political Realities
Mr. Amir Rapaport, BESA Center, The IDF and the Lebanon Syndrome: Towards a Third Lebanon War?
Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA Center, Arab World Attitudes Towards Lebanon
Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, OC IDF Northern Command

The conference will be in HEBREW with simultaneous translation into ENGLISH.

The conference will be held at Bar Ilan Univeristy, no need to register in advance!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Prime Minister's Bible Study Circle Renewed

Herb Keinon's report: Studying Bible with Bibi

There is something both heartening and humorous about Netanyahu setting aside precious time to contemplate Ruth on Shavuot.

On Wednesday afternoon in Baghdad, a few thousand kilometers away from the Prime Minister’s Jerusalem Residence, the world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – sat down for much anticipated talks with the Iranians about their nuclear program.

At the same time, just a few hundred meters away from the Prime Minister’s Residence, 100 or so people loudly demonstrated for the rights of Ethiopian immigrants and against discrimination.

And all the while, for two hours on a mild afternoon, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – with a small black kippa on his head – sat in the covered courtyard of his home with 16 rabbis, academics, Bible scholars, archeologists and linguists, and discussed the meaning of the Book of Ruth, which will be read on Shavuot on Sunday in synagogues around the world. His wife, Sara, sat next to him, and his two sons sat on a bank of chairs set to the side.

There was something at once heartening and slightly humorous about Netanyahu setting aside precious time in the late afternoon to talk about Biblical figures Tamar and Yehuda, Naomi and Boaz, Ruth and David, while Iran loomed so large, and domestic issues beckoned so seriously.

It was heartening in that it is uniquely elevating seeing the prime minister of the Jewish state taking time out to study the Bible, the heart of Jewish existence. One cannot talk about Jewish historic rights to this place, which the prime minister does constantly, without appreciating and understanding the Bible.

And the scene was slightly humorous in that there is no other way to describe watching Avshalom Kor, the legendary radio linguist with the bass voice and perfect Hebrew pronunciation, read chapters from the Book of Ruth, while in the background chants from the Ethiopian protesters grew louder and louder and threatened to drown him out.

Netanyahu – try as he may to set aside some time for Bible study to block out the everyday – could not totally succeed. The outside world seeped in, even as he tried hard to ignore it.

Still, the attempt was praiseworthy because it put into wider perspective the matters on the agenda that seem so overwhelmingly critical at the moment – Iran and domestic problems the Ethiopian protesters raised.

Or, as Rabbi Yehuda Ben-Yishai, whose daughter Ruth was killed with her husband and three children in a terrorist attack in Itamar last year, put it at the meeting, the Bible is a chronicle of how – despite it all – “we came out of it all right.” He said the Bible was a chronicle of finding the “light” in very complicated and complex situations.

Kor wanted to read only a few verses from the Book of Ruth, but the prime minister urged him on to read more.

This is better then the usual matters he has to deal with, Netanyahu quipped as the session – originally scheduled for an hour – went 60 minutes longer than planned.

“The Bible is a parable for humanity,” Netanyahu said at the outset in English, giving a powerful sound-bite to the cameras invited to film just the opening of the study circle. “If the Jews are able to cross the river of time, and in their vast odyssey cross the chasm of annihilation and come back to their ancestral home, that means there is hope for humanity.”

The PMO, along with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, organized the event, a reincarnation of a tradition David Ben-Gurion began, when as prime minister he hosted a regular Bible study circle, and also Menachem Begin adopted when he was prime minister. It is dedicated to Sara Netanyahu’s father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, a noted Bible teacher and enthusiast who passed away in November.

A tale is told that one Saturday evening Begin was studying the weekly Torah portion with his group, when a call came in from the White House. US president Jimmy Carter was on the line. Begin is said to have replied that he was in the middle of studying verses from Deuteronomy, and that Carter should call back in a couple of hours.

Apocryphal or not, the story sends a message that certain things are important, like calls from the US president, and other things are even more so. That seemed the message Netanyahu was trying to send as well.

Wednesday’s meeting, the first of a number of study sessions that are to take place throughout the year, was more symbol than substance, more message than meat.

And Netanyahu made clear what the message was: “Ben-Gurion and Begin believed that the Bible should be the heritage of the entire nation – secular and religious, young and old, men and women. The Bible is the foundation of our existence. It unites the Jewish people, as it has throughout the generations. It also serves not only as a foundation but also as a map and compass,” he said.

“The Bible is always relevant vis-à-vis today’s problems and challenges. It inspires, it is a source of life for our people and I think that it is important to expand Bible study and love of the Bible among all parts of the nation.

This is also the goal of this circle.” Wednesday’s format was neither university lecture, nor yeshiva shiur (lesson).

Micha Goodman, the dynamic head of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership and a lecturer on Jewish thought at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, handed out a short source sheet and then began the discussion by explaining how the Book of Ruth – the story of the Moabite convert Ruth – contradicted the Biblical injunction of never letting Moabites and Ammonites enter the ranks of the Jewish people.

On the Shavuot holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah, Goodman said, the book the sages selected to be read contradicted a tenet of the Torah. And therein lay the irony and the paradox that others sitting to the left and right of the prime minister then addressed.

Granted, when a group that includes rabbis like Benny Lau and Yeshivat Har Etzion co-head Yaakov Meidan, archeologists like Adam Zertal, linguists like Hebrew Language Academy head Moshe Bar-Asher, and Judaic studies scholars like Hebrew University’s Nili Wazana, get together, the discussion is bound to be illuminating. In a group like that, everyone has what to say – especially when they feel compelled to say something intelligent since they were invited by the prime minister expressly for that purpose.

But the significance of the afternoon was less in the insights given – talk about how the Bible is both law and spirit, full of complexities reflecting life’s contradictions and compromises – and more in the very fact that Netanyahu decided to resurrect Ben-Gurion and Begin’s tradition. While an absorbing discussion ensued, Wednesday’s prime ministerial study circle shed more light on Netanyahu – his psyche, world view and the way he sees his role – than it did on the Book of Ruth.


From Nat'l Service at Begin Center to the Stage

A dramatic story:-

Tom Weinberger had been straightening teeth for more than three decades as a Jerusalem orthodontist...Next week, one week shy of his 70th birthday, Weinberger will appear in the English-language Encore Educational Theatre Company's production of "My Fair Lady" - the popular musical based on George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" - at Jerusalem's Hirsch Theatre..."My Fair Lady" will be performed in English with Hebrew subtitles.

...There are 50 fellow cast members like him, each with a distinct backstory - from teenage students, Jerusalem housewives and silver-haired grandmothers, to international attorneys and a former archaeologist-turned-hospital-administrator. And not one among them is a professional actor.
"We're not a professional company," notes Robert Binder, co-founder and artistic director of the not-for-profit group, created in 2006. "We are a community theater. But we work to professional standards."

...Some 2,500 people are expected to attend the seven performances of "My Fair Lady." About half of the group's annual budget of NIS 600,000 is covered by ticket sales, according to Yaacov Fisher, director of development, who is looking to foundations and private donors for support.
Auditions for the theater's two productions each year draw as many as 100 people, according to Binder, and about 50 make the final cut. "Occasionally we have some who are not exactly stage-worthy, but we try to put them to work in another capacity," he says. "Most of the people who come have ability, and we have been blessed with many talents."

Miri Fraenkel, an 18-year-old immigrant from London who plays the role of Eliza Doolittle, is considering a career in drama or music. She is performing her national service as a tour guide at Jerusalem's Menachem Begin Heritage Center. "Encore has given me a chance I would not have had in London as an Orthodox Jewish actor," she says.


Begin Year in Primary Schools

Begin and Ben-Gurion Themes of Next Curriculum

[Minister of Education] Gideon Saar has announced that the personas of ideological and political rivals David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin will be the educational theme of the next school year. Pupils will become familiarized with each unique personality, and be encouraged to walk in the respective leadership footsteps of the pair. As part of the curriculum, marking the 100th birthday of Menachem Begin and the 40th anniversary of the passing of David Ben Gurion, students will attend numerous field trips to national heritage sites such as the Ben Gurion museum in S’deh Boker and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Prime Minister's Tanakh Circle Renewed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday, 23 May 2012), at his official residence, dedicated the Prime Minister's Tanakh Study Circle in memory of Shmuel Ben-Artzi, the late father of Sara Netanyahu, who also participated in the circle. Mr. Ben-Artzi, who passed away last November, was a Tanakh teacher and researcher.

The Tanakh Study Circle renews a tradition started by Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and which was continued by its sixth, Menachem Begin.

At the start of the first lesson of the renewed Tanakh Study Circle, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "Ben-Gurion and Begin believed that the Tanakh should be the heritage of the entire nation – secular and religious, young and old, men and women. The Tanakh is the foundation of our existence. It unites the Jewish People, as it has throughout the generations. It also serves not only as a foundation but also as a map and compass. The Tanakh is always relevant vis-à-vis today's problems and challenges. It inspires, it is a source of life for our people and I think that it is important to expand Tanakh study and love of the Tanakh among all parts of the nation. This is also the goal of this circle. I am certain that thanks to the researchers, rabbis and learned men and women here, who know and love the Tanakh, we will enrich our common knowledge."

The Tanakh Study Circle will meets at the Prime Minister's residence in cooperation with the Begin Center. The full lesson, which was dedicated to the upcoming Shavuot holiday, will be uploaded to the Prime Minister's Office YouTube and Facebook pages.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Did You Know...?


the longest street in Jerusalem is Menachem Begin Avenue.

15.7 kilometers long.


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Sputtered Upset of 1977

The beginning paragraphs of Prof. Asher Cohen's The unfinished victory Although it’s been 35 years since the historic political upset that brought the Likud to power, the Ashkenazi, secular, old guard, socialist, and liberal monopoly on power is far from over.

At first glance, although it may be somewhat simplistic and partial, the events of May 2012 appear to provide the perfect backdrop for the 35th anniversary of the 1977 political upheaval, when the Likud became the largest party in the Knesset.

The right-wing bloc appears stable, the main opposition party has been effectively shattered in the wake of its entry into the coalition, and the Likud's historic rival — Labor — has about as much clout as the old Herut party did in the 1950s. Was the late sociologist Baruch Kimmerling correct more than a decade ago when he described “the end of the ASOSL rule?" ASOSL — Ashkenazi, secular, old guard, socialists, and nationalists — ruled the state and society with a heavy hand while dictating social and cultural, political and economic norms. That is, until the upheaval. When we refer to them as the ASOSLs, we are also referring to their heirs, the ASOLLs – Ashkenazi, secular, old guard, leftists, and liberals.

Although it has been 35 years since Begin's stunning upset, and despite the events of the last month, Israel is still a ways away from the end of ASOSL rule. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that a political regime cannot foment change when it is devoid of a mindset befitting a regime that seeks to rule. The second reason is that the political regime has limited capabilities when it cannot wield influence in other key positions of power in the state. Those with the mindset befitting a regime that wishes to rule repeatedly return to their ideologies and their policies, which leads them to lose elections time after time. Their positions are not those that are taken up based on populist considerations, but rather they are absolute truths. Without political control, they will try to conquer other positions that enable them to wield influence. The opposite is the case with those who lack such a mindset. They make do with the political refrain that they will carry out their adversaries’ policies better and more effectively, an attitude that is encapsulated by the campaign slogan, “Only the Likud can.” They do not foment wholesale, comprehensive change that is predicated on an ideology that they espoused while in opposition.

The first symbolic event that foreshadowed this occurred after the upheaval. To everybody’s surprise, Menachem Begin insisted that Moshe Dayan accept the foreign minister’s post despite Dayan’s role in the government’s failure to anticipate the Yom Kippur War. Dayan was one of the driving forces that led Begin to sign the peace agreement with Egypt. In hindsight, it is easy to portray these agreements as a national achievement. It doesn’t change the fact that within a short time after the upheaval, the Likud orchestrated a move that was first conceived by a political rival that was defeated in the recent elections.

The settlement blocs that were built by the ASOSLs, including Yamit and Gush Katif, were evacuated by Likud governments. What is left of the proposed laws that provoked such an outcry in the recent winter session? The ASOSLs relentless attack effectively did away with elements that represented initial sparks of a ruling regime mindset.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lessons of 1977

From Tzipi Hotovely

Lessons from 1977
Thirty-five years ago today, Israel's most famous political upset took place, catapulting Menachem Begin and his Likud party into power and ending their "long public service in the opposition." Since then the Right has held a tight grip on the reins of power, albeit with brief interruptions by the Left. But despite this ostensibly unchallenged control, at times it seems as though the Left has been at the helm of the ship.
In many ways, Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the strongest prime ministers Israel has ever had. His mega-coalition of 94 MKs only proves that there is no real opposition in Israel. Such a reality is largely a result of the Left's political demise and the Right's success in winning over the public's hearts and minds. The Left is more preoccupied with protecting foreign workers and reinstating socialism than with demonstrations against the occupation.
But alongside the seemingly all-powerful government there is also an outrageous sense of weakness. While the Right may be in power, on core issues it has remained mute. The fact that the much-derided Oslo Accords still govern our political thinking and that the concept of a two-state solution has still not been discarded in favor of a more appropriate alternative is a case in point. During Netanyahu's second term in office, most Likud members have endorsed the notion of applying Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, the fear of acting has trumped the same common sense that guided Begin when he decided to annex the Golan Heights despite the international community's hostile stance on this issue.
This is also the case when it comes to the so-called outpost arrangement bill. This huge government keeps embarrassing itself in the face of five buildings in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood — homes that have been purchased lawfully. Once again, another case of governing phobia.
The media and the High Court of Justice have also played a supporting role in creating this situation. In most outpost court cases, the state, through the State Prosecution, failed to provide support to the Jewish residents there. A normal right-wing government would not let 350,000 citizens be at the mercy of the army and the minister of defense, which must approve every construction permit and land purchase there. A normal right-wing government would apply the state's sovereignty on Judea and Samaria's Jewish communities. A normal right-wing government would have continued the fight to cut funding to the Left's nongovernmental organizations, which have caused tremendous damage to the state.
This weakness should not be treated as a fact of life. Past national unity governments formed when the right-left divide could not be resolved; but this political gridlock has long been decided in favor of the Right. The stability of the current government relies on a solid majority on the Right, which would be happy to see Israeli law applied in Judea and Samaria.
There is a general feeling that every right-wing government harbors a fear of governing from the right. Every time someone cries out "fascists," we are struck with anxiety even if this is shallow demagoguery. We must make it clear to the chorus of reporters — those who like to wave at us the magic words "destruction of democracy" to protest any move that has a hint of right-wing ideology — that respecting the majority's view is an important democratic principle.
We now have a window of opportunity for this unity government to put its historical stamp on the Iranian issue and the issue of mandatory service for all. But this is also the time to change the status of Judea and Samaria communities so as to establish a fait accompli and to create the right balance between the legislature and the judiciary. Only then will the political change of 1977 be complete.
Tzipi Hotovely is a Likud MK.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Menachem Begin: Hawk & Liberal Democrat

At the Israel Democracy Institute site:

Is it possible to be a nationalist hawk and a liberal democrat?

Two IDI scholars argue that the answer to this question is a resounding "yes."

Although some people in Israel hold nationalism and liberalism to be mutually exclusive, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was both a proud nationalist and an unwavering guardian of liberal principles.

Last month, the Jewish world marked the 20th anniversary of Begin's death. In honor of this occasion, IDI is pleased to present Menachem Begin on Democracy and Constitutional Values, a booklet by IDI Vice President of Research Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and IDI Researcher Attorney Amir Fuchs. Originally published in Hebrew on the eve of Yom Kippur, 2011, this fascinating booklet was distributed to thousands of readers of Israel Hayom, Israel's largest daily newspaper, and is now available in English.

Find out more here.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Does 2012 Recall 1967?

Charles Krauthammer recalls 1967:

On June 5, Israel launched a preemptive strike on the Egyptian air force, then proceeded to lightning victories on three fronts. The Six-Day War is legend, but less remembered is that, four days earlier, the nationalist opposition (Mena­chem Begin’s Likud precursor) was for the first time ever brought into the government, creating an emergency national-unity coalition.

Everyone understood why. You do not undertake a supremely risky preemptive war without the full participation of a broad coalition representing a national consensus.


Will The Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty Survive The Upcoming Elections?

In a story on the recent electoral debate in Egypt, the conadidates expressed a vow to review Camp David - In first-ever presidential debate in the Arab world, Abol Fotouh calls Israel an enemy, Amr Moussa calls it an adversary; both promise review of Israel peace treaty.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Begin and Jabotinsky and Israel's Economy

Zev Golan, who directs the Center for Public Policy at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS), published an appreciation of Milton Friedman which included this relevant material:-

Ze’ev Jabotinsky was another major figure in the Zionist movement opposed by the establishment because of, among other things, his support for economic freedom.

Jabotinsky believed “every individual is a king” and the state should not impair his freedom. He noted that freedom of speech and assembly, majority rule, equality for all – are ideals that socialism combats. Practically, he advocated an end to the Histadrut’s monopoly over labor in Eretz Israel, which was preventing non-socialists from getting work.

This summer marks the centenary of the birth of economist Milton Friedman...Academics are divided on the question of whether Friedman influenced the policies of Menachem Begin, who became prime minister in 1977, the year after Friedman won his prize. The truth is Begin’s commitment to economic liberty drew from the teachings of his mentor Jabotinsky, as well as from the time he spent in Soviet jails and labor camps, and he advocated free markets all through the 1950s and 1960s.

“Private initiative is the least expensive and most efficient system,” said Begin, but he said his commitment to the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was based on the Bible’s statement that man – all persons of all religions, nationalities and races – is created in God’s image.

Jabotinsky wrote that the Bible is full of social protest, but not socialism. Its economic and social policy is one of freedom; rather than forbid or control economic activity, it deals with any negative results by means of institutions such as the Sabbath, tithing, the gleanings and corners of the field that were left for the poor, and the Jubilee.

Begin had always opposed Israel’s state-based centralized economy and as prime minister worked to end the government’s foreign currency controls and liberalize the economy.

The current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is from the Jabotinsky-Begin school, and he, too, emphasizes the importance of markets and liberty.

Over the decades, Israel’s leaders have sought charity and foreign aid rather than investment. Herzl, Brandeis and Jabotinsky must have turned over in their graves.

...The irony is that though Zionism was long identified with the socialist kibbutzim, even they have been bailed out by taxpayers and are now building shopping centers. Yet the bureaucracy still wants to grow at the expense of private individuals. Israelis would do well to reflect on the relationship between their heritage and economic liberty. It’s all so ironic – for if the vision of such greats as Herzl, Brandeis and Jabotinsky were to be realized, Israel would not need foreign aid, its citizens would not need to take to the streets to protest high prices and taxes, and secular Israelis might not be so put off by their encounter with state-enforced religion.


Menachem Begin in a John Le Carre Novel

Page 185 in The Little Drummer Girl published 1983:-


A Non-Zionist Appreciates Begin

Would Menachem Begin Now be Considered a Traitor to Israel?

Zionist History: a Short Quiz

Take this test to find out how much you know about the gradual shift in Israeli political thought over the decades.

Not long after Israel celebrated its 64th Independence Day on April 26, a friend prepared a quiz of sorts. She read out loud political quotes to about ten guests who were having dinner at my house, and asked us to identify the politician who had uttered each statement.

Truth be told, none of my guests did very well on the quiz, but I thought that readers acquainted with Zionist history might do better and would be able to identify the source of each of the following statements. There is only one rule to this game: all search engines, including Google, are off limits.
  • “Does a bad law become a good one just because Jews apply it? I say that this law is bad from its very foundation and does not become good because it is practiced by Jews … We oppose administrative detention in principle. There is no place for such detention.”
  • “We do not accept the semi-official view … wherein the state grants rights and is entitled to rescind them. We believe that there are human rights that precede the human form of life called a state.”
  • “We have learned that an elected parliamentary majority can be an instrument in the hands of a group of rulers and act as camouflage for their tyranny. Therefore, the nation must, if it chooses freedom, determine its rights also with regard to the House of Representatives in order that the majority thereof, that serves the regime more than it oversees it, should not negate these rights.”
  • “We would propose that the Knesset enact a law of its own free will, limiting its authority and stipulating that it will not tolerate any legislation that limits oral or written freedom of expression or association, or other basic civil and human rights to be enumerated before the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.”
  • “The day will come when a government elected by our people will fulfill the first promise made to the people on the establishment of the state, namely: To elect a founding assembly whose chief function – in any country on earth – is to provide the people with a constitution and issue legislative guarantees of civil liberties and national liberty… For the nation will then be free – above all, free of fear, free of hunger, free of the fear of starvation. That day will come. I can sense that it is coming soon.”
  • “Some say that it is impossible for us to provide full equal rights to Arab citizens of the state because they do not fulfill full equal obligations. But this is a strange claim. True, we decided not to obligate Arab residents, as distinguished from the Druze, to perform military service. But we decided this of our own free will, and I believe that the moral reason for it is valid. Should war break out, we would not want one Arab citizen to face the harsh human test that our own people had experienced for generations.”
Confused yet?

If you are having trouble identifying the author, you are not alone. After hearing the quotes, I, too, wondered why they were so difficult to decipher. But, following a few misguided guesses, I recognised the source of the difficulty. The quiz was counterintuitive, and not only because all of the statements were uttered by a single politician.

No doubt, time has done its work and what was once pronounced by the undisputed leader of the Israeli right, now sounds more like declarations coming out of the liberal and far left – such as Knesset Members from Meretz and Hadash. Even the head of the Labor Party, Sheli Yichimovich, does not oppose administrative detention, and does not dare to claim that “there are human rights that precede the human form of life called a state”, probably for fear of losing potential voters.

My friend’s quiz managed to expose just how far right Israeli politics, as well as the public discourse informing it, have shifted over the years; so much so that, within the current political climate, declarations once uttered by former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who passed away 20 years ago, can now only be reiterated by leftists.

I have no doubt that if Menachem Begin, commander of the infamous Irgun militia from 1943-1948, were alive today and would utter these very same statements in the Knesset, his own party members from the Likud – as well as the Israeli majority – would condemn him. Today, citizens who hold such positions are simply called “traitors”.

Neve Gordon is an Israeli activist and the author of and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008). He can be contacted through his website
This article first appeared in Al Jazeera.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On BZ Netanyahu and Menachem Begin

From Tom Segev:

Benzion Netanyahu, who died this week, was considered a very zealous Zionist; in the 1940s he worked with Ze'ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist party. It is customary to say that his opinions prevented him from being accepted as a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and that even Menachem Begin did not take him with him to the Knesset, because Netanyahu was too extreme for his taste. But things that David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary apparently call for a reassessment of Netanyahu's extremist image.  A meeting between the two took place on Friday, November 11 (,1956)...Netanyahu and Ben-Gurion knew each other. In July 1945 Netanyahu offered Ben-Gurion - then head of the Jewish Agency - to work on bringing the Revisionist Party back into the World Zionist Organization. Ben-Gurion made their return conditional upon the disbanding of the Irgun, the Revisionists' armed militia. Netanyahu, who came to Ben-Gurion accompanied with some of his colleagues, told Ben-Gurion that during World War II, he had overseen the propaganda work in the United States of the New Zionist Organization (the NZO ), the group founded by the Revisionist Zionists. He assured him that he had not worked with the radical faction of the Revisionist movement, headed by Hillel Kook...According to Ben-Gurion's diary, Netanyahu told him that when the state was founded, he had left the Revisionist Party.