A Lesson in Democracy

Newspaper: Jewish Herald
posted on:
29 In aug 1978
States - Britain/England. Democracy , Diaspora - Diaspora Jewry. Election System , Security - Fundamentals of Israeli Security. Government , Knesset , Peace , peace process with Egypt , Social Reform , Individuals - Ze'ev Jabotinsky
Begin writes a response to a letter doubting Begin's peace efforts. The original letter suggests Begin to go to the polls and argues that if he does not have majority support, he should no longer remain Prime Minister. Begin's response letter first acknowledges that Israel is not just a country for its residents, but also a country belonging to Diaspora Jews. He also says that a national election is an internal issue. Then Begin talks about how his campaign in the 1977 national election focused on "the political-security problems and the socioeconomic problems." Israelis voted for Begin fully aware of his political-security visions. Begin talks about how he takes his duty as Prime Minister seriously and it's his responsibility to strengthen Israel's security. Begin believes that strengthening Israel's security means having peace with its neighbors. He claims that the original letter's idea of security would lead to permanent bloodshed and thus, threaten Israel's existence.
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JERUSALEM.—On August 10, a letter from Michael M. Sacher, a leading member of the Anglo-Jewish community, appeared on the editorial page of the Jerusalem Post expressing doubt that the majority of Israelis support Prime Minister Begin's posture in the peace negotiations.  It suggested that the Prime Minister go to the polls to see if he does, in fact, have a mandate of the people.  If it is proved that he does not, then the Premier should "pass the leadership of the government over to someone else who then may be in a position to carry on more fruitful negotiations for peace with Egypt."  Mr. Sacher's letter, which has created much controversy in Britain, drew the following public reply from Mr. Begin:

Dear Mr. Sacher,

Yesterday, which was the last day of my short vacation, I read your letter in The Jerusalem Post and it left me wondering.  During the last year you had numerous opportunities to talk to me in the circle of a few friends, or, if you so wished, privately.

But you did not use those opportunities.  You never brought your interesting suggestion to me but preferred, as the Americans say, to "go public."

This is your right.  Since I became a disciple of Jabotinsky at the age of 15—it is now fifty years ago—I learned from him, and believe this with all my heart, that Eretz Yisrael belongs to all the Jewish people and not only to that portion of our people that lives here.

However, it is my duty to state that a national election being THE internal issue in any country, must always remain the legitimate exclusive domain of those who can influence the electorate or be influenced by it.

Your suggestion or allegation that my colleagues and I were elected by the people mainly "on the basis of our economic plan" is, to put it mildly, a complete mistake.  We campaigned for months on two issues: the political-security problems and the socioeconomic problems.

Every child in Israel knew exactly what we stood for on the question of peace and security—the more so the adults.  This was the main theme of the election-eve television dialogue between the Labour Alignment's candidate for the premiership, Mr. Peres, and myself.  After all this thorough public elucidation came the decision of our people.  And I venture to say that there never was a more democratic expression of opinion in the annals of our country or of any other state than the Israel national election of 1977.

Upon taking office I gave an oath of allegiance before the Knesset to the effect that I would faithfully fulfil my duty as Prime Minister of Israel.  And, Mr. Sacher, I intend to do my best and utmost to fulfil my duty for the constitutional duration of the 9th Parliament.  I shall do so as long as the Government I head enjoys the confidence of the House.  As far as I am aware, this is called in several countries, including Britain:  Democracy.

I must state with a full sense of responsibility that your concept of Israel's security would lead us into untenable conditions of permanent bloodshed, a general war under the most intolerable circumstances and a direct danger to the very existence of Israel and its people.  You will, therefore, understand why your concept is utterly unacceptable.

We shall go on doing our very best to obtain peace with security not only for our own generation but also for our children and their children.

I am, as is proper, sending a copy of this letter to The Jerusalem Post for publication, and a copy to friends in Britain.

Sincerely yours,

Menachem Begin