Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol 4, No. 47

Volume 4, Issue 47
September 3, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 434,679

Menachem Begin versus Joseph Biden

Twenty-five years after his retirement from political life and sixteen years after his death, Menachem Begin is suddenly a factor in the upcoming US Presidential election. His name has appeared in reports and numerous websites describing a June 1982 confrontation Begin had while visiting Washington, DC, with then-Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware and now Vice Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket. The report circu lating quotes a major article by Moshe Zak, a leading Israeli journalist and one-time editor of Ma'ariv, who wrote in the week of Begin's death in 1992 that:

During that committee hearing, at the height of the Lebanon War, Sen. John [sic, Joseph] Biden (Delaware) had attacked Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria and threatened that if Israel did not immediately cease this activity, the US would have to cut economic aid to Israel. When the senator raised his voice and banged twice on the table with his fist, Begin com mented to him: “This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.”

When that report appeared last week, the Begin Center in Jerusalem received numerous inquiries from people asking for verification from official sources that such a conference had actually taken place. The Information Resources team at the Begin Center searched for relevant documents and found the official report of a press conference that Begin gave on his return from that particular visit to the US on 23 June 1982 in which he enumerated various important meetings he had with the Pres ident and other personalities and House of Representatives and Senate Foreign Relations Committees. Begin said that in the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate:

A young senator rose and delivered a very impassioned speech - I must say that it's been a while since I've heard such a talented speaker - and he actually supported Operation "Peace for the Galilee". He even went further, and said that if someone from Canada were to infiltrate into the United States, and kill its citizens all of us (and thus he indicated a circle) would demand attacking them, and we wouldn't pay attention as to whether men, women or children were killed. That's what he said. I disassociated myself from these remarks. I said to him: No, sir; attention must be paid. According to our values, it is forbidden to hurt women and c hildren, even in war. …

And thus the argument went. But, as I said before, the same senator supported our operation in Lebanon - with all his heart, he said. What he doesn't like are our settlements in Judea and Samaria. I regret that I could not agree with him. He hinted - more than hinted - that if we continue with this policy, it is possible that he will propose cutting our financial aid. And to this I gave him a clear answer: Sir, do not threaten us with cutting aid. First of all, you should know that this is not a one- way street. You help us, and we are very grateful for your help; but this is a two-way street: We do a lot for you. And also in recent battles we did a lot for the United States; and I gave some examples, but this is not the place to go into them. Therefore, do not threaten us with cuts in aid, but take note: That if at any time you demand of us to yield on a principle in which we believe, while threatening to cut aid, we will not abandon the principle in which we believe - and propose cutting aid.

Moshe Zak wrote that "after the meeting, Sen. [Daniel] Moynihan approached Begin and praised him for his cutting reply. To which Begin answered with thanks, defining his stand against threats."

30 Years Ago: PM Begin Visits Romania

This week marks 30 years since Menachem Begin's visit as Prime Minister to Romania. He had two goals in mind—the first was to meet with the Jewish community which he had last visited 38 years previously and the second was to hold talks with President Ceausescu and Foreign Minister Macovescu. He wanted them to assure President Sadat that he, Begin, was serious in his efforts for peace.

On Begin's return to Israel, he told a press conference that:

The visit was a moving one. I refer to the meeting with the remnants of the Romanian Jewish Community in fact with the remnants of East European Jewry in general. We came to the synagogue on Friday evening, and there we saw the remnant of the glorious Jewish Community.

Before World War II there were a million Jews in Romania, but only 450,000 survived. Even in 1944 the arch-murderer Eichmann managed to deport from Transylvania, which is now part of Romania, hundreds of thousands of Jews and ship them to Auschwitz. This entire tragedy stood before my eyes when I saw the worshippers in t he synagogue. The old people, the women and the youngsters. The youngsters sang for us songs of Zion and we experienced profound emotion.

We must not forget that 38 years have passed since the outbreak of the war and the onset of the Holocaust, and this was the first time—after a span of a generation or more—that I had seen the remnants of East European Jewry.

The next day we went to the synagogue again—all the members of the entourage and myself—and again we met with the wonderful Jews who had survived. But in my mind's eye I saw also the thousands of Jews with whom I came to what was the Romanian border and who, on account of the intervention of the British Ambassador in Bucharest, were prevented from transiting to Constanza and from there to Israel…and as we were sitting in the synagogue: "We were like dreamers." Both because of the pain over those who are no longer alive and because of our encounter with those who still are—and they are loyal dedicated Jews who love Eretz Yisrael and are aware of what is happening in it.

High Tribute To the Begin Center by former Jerusalem Post Editor

A former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, Jeff Barak, wrote a critical article in the Post of today's leadership in Israel. He cited Ehud Barak's desire to sell his penthouse apartment in the Akirov Towers in Tel Aviv for $11 million.

At this point he wrote that:

a more telling comparison can be found in the excellent Menachem Begin Heritage Center museum in Jerusalem. There you can find a reconstruction of Begin's apartment at 1 Rehov Rosenbaum in Tel Aviv, his private residence until he became prime minister in 1977. The simply furnished living room is exactly like the living rooms of other lower middle-class Israelis of that period, who made do with very little. There is no room there for the grand piano so beloved of Barak. Begin, despite being the most grandiose and theatrical of politicians, lived a spartan way of life and handed this down to his children. His son Benny, a Jerusalemite, was famous, when a Knesset member, for taking the bus to the Knesset rather than using his MK's car.

Begin's successor, Yitzhak Shamir, as befits another former member of the Jewish underground, also lived modestly. His son Yair, the successful hi-tech entrepreneur, said that his father was disappointed in him when he decided to leave the air force, where he had been a successful career officer, in favor of the business world. Shamir senior was troubled by the thought, Yair said, that his son was giving up a job in which the security of the state was paramount in return for one where money became the prime object.

Camp David Commemoration

On the evening of 22 September, the famous Camp David meeting attended by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat will be commemorated with the participation of a number of leading persons from that time. Israel will be represented by the 5th President of the State of Israel Yitzhak Navon and Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein. The Begi n Center will be represented by Harry Hurwitz, Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, and the Bar Ilan University (a co-sponsor of the event) will be represented by the President of the University, Moshe Kaveh.

The following day a three-session symposium will be held at the Bar Ilan University. In that event, active participants in the Camp David negotiations and events will be the main speakers in the various panels.

Mazal Tov

Rami Shtivi, a senior worker in the Menachem Begin Archives at the Menachem Begin Center, and his bride Keren Shahar were married last week in a lovely ceremony on Kibbutz Hulda. The Begin Center extends hearty Mazal Tov to the newlyweds.

* * * * *

Yael, the daughter of Gaby and Shaul Mizrahi, was married last week at the Ahuzah Center in Jerusalem. Yae l was married to Yaron Pituvi. We extend a hearty Mazal Tov to the newlyweds, their parents and grandparents.
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