Begin Hits Back

Newspaper: Jerusalem Post
posted on:
27 In apr 1976
Individuals - Abraham (Yair) Stern, Shimon Peres, Yigal Alon, Yitzchak Rabin. Government , Greater Land of Israel - Greater Israel, Settlements. Jewish Nationality , Knesset , Political Parties - Mapai. Nationalism , Opposition
After Abba Eban responded to his earlier op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, Begin "hits back." Eban used Begin as a vehicle to attack his own Labor Party and its leaders, and also attacked Begin. Begin says that Eban was deeply embittered over losing his position as Foreign Minister and is still bitter. Begin accuses Eban of having different styles for foreigners as opposed to his countrymen, the former being noble and the latter being coarse. He maintains that according to the press reports of the Labor Party caucus his description of Eban's speaking of evicting the settlers of Elon Moreh was accurate. He then accuse Eban of an Orwellian twisting of his words so that he supposedly said that it would be a "bloody adventure" to remove the settlers of Elon Moreh when Begin was speaking of the fighting with the Arabs that would result from giving up Judea and Samaria. Certain elements in the Labor Party feel the same need to settle Judea and Samaria as Begin.
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Begin Hits Back

Mr. Eban, in his polemical article, refers to mine in order, mainly, to criticize the policies of the government controlled by his own party.  He draws our attention to the fact that the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense rarely agree.  And "when Mr. Rabin and Mr. Peres agree on something let us endorse their harmony before it is too late."  Biting irony.  It may apply to the author himself, with regard to his former colleagues.  If we don't endorse, quickly, their triple harmony it may be too late.

Perhaps it is already too late.  The former Foreign Minister refuses to respect the prevailing attitude of the Government on the issue of settling Judea and Samaria.  On this issue he finds dangerous confusion in his, the ruling party. He warns that "it would dishonor its past and lose its future if it does not promulgate one of these visions as clearly as Mr. Begin declares the other."  Clarity is a virtue, and I am grateful for the compliment; but can we overlook the severity of the warning?

If I am the vehicle through which Mr. Eban wishes to attack the leadership of his party there is no reason for me to object.  The method may be in character, but it is legitimate and even forgivable.  From direct observation, I know the depth of bitterness into which Mr. Eban has plunged since Mr. Allon replaced him in the Foreign Ministry while refusing to surrender the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr. Eban did not hesitate to call the day of his exclusion from the Government "a black day for our people."  I then admonished him, in his presence, from the rostrum of the Knesset.  In our time, with all the dark days we have lived through, should a man see "black" only because he has ceased to be a Minister?  What an exhibition of self-humiliating egotism?  The impression is that the bitterness in Mr. Eban's heart has not abated with time: on the contrary.  It does not, however, justify an utter disregard for the facts.

Of course, Mr. Eban attacks me too.  And what sharpness!  This again is an interesting phenomenon.  Mr. Eban has developed two styles.  One for foreigners.  It is beautiful, gentle, noble.  But when his fellow-countrymen are the object of his polemics, the style is harsh, often coarse, sometimes rude.  This double style has-to use one of Mr. Eban's phrases "galut written all over it."  In his article there are some remarks which are unworthy even of a former Foreign Minister.

Let us turn to the facts.  Before our parliamentary recess, a caucus of the Labour faction took place.  The press reported that both the Foreign Minister and his predecessor demanded courageous decisions, and advocated, inter alia, the eviction of the Kaddum settlers.  I am not a member of that faction; I quoted what I read.  Where is the inaccuracy of which Mr. Eban accuses me?  Actually, although with circumscribing phraseology, the author confirms completely what I wrote.  Let us read again: "The sincere Zionists at Kaddum should be offered the opportunity of pioneering settlement in a place which the Government judges desirable for such settlement-whether it be in Galillee, the Negev, Golan, the Jordan Valley, or elsewhere.  Somehow we do not find in the long list the name Samaria.  Doesn't that mean eviction?  Perhaps it may be called resettlement, but only in Orwellian language.

The author (Mr. Abba Eban, not George Orwell) goes even further.  Although he may read my article, he contends that I called any attempt to evict the Kaddum settlers a "bloody adventure."  On this astounding "quotation" he builds an elaborate theory, even honouring me amongst "countless others" who struggled hard to attain Israeli sovereignty.  And the truth?  I re-quote from my article in The Jerusalem Post: "To proclaim our readiness to hand back Judea and Samaria-here we have the courage to decide.  But if the word 'adventure' has any real meaning, this would be a 'bloody adventure'…"  I stand by this statement, which I tried to explain in the Knesset and on television.

Surrendering Judea and Samaria to foreign rule would mean permanent bloodshed and another war, under the most difficult circumstances, with a horrifying number of casualties-a bloody adventure, indeed.  But where, and when, did I use this realistic definition in connection with Kaddum?  I cannot, therefore, say that Mr. Eban committed an "inaccuracy," or as Churchill once put it in Parliament, a terminological inexactitude; he is guilty of a total invention.

The embittered former Foreign Minister, with his "daring vision" of surrendering Judea and Samaria would do better to listen to the hundreds of veteran settlers, members of his own party, who were addressed not only by Sharon but also by Zorea and Laner, who declared their vision of settling Judea and Samaria as clearly as I did.