Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Israel Desperately Needs a Prime Minister with Menachem Begin's Courage and Foresight

It has been so long since Israel had a Prime Minister who possessed courage and a sense of history that it is easy to forget what it sounds like when an Israeli leader actually speaks truth to power. Benjamin Netanyahu knows the truth and he used to speak it when he represented Israel at the United Nations but as soon as he enters the Prime Minister's office--first from 1996-99, then from 2009 to the present--he loses his mind and his backbone.

Menachem Begin survived the Holocaust and he fought in Israel's War of Independence. Those experiences reinforced what he had always known to be true: the Jewish people must return to their homeland and reestablish an independent state where Jewish culture can thrive and where Jewish people will be safe from persecution and free to live openly as Jews, the same basic rights that every other nation expects to enjoy.

Michael Freund's column about the most recent misguided U.S. Mideast "peace plan" recalls Begin's response to a similarly misguided plan three decades ago. Begin wrote a personal letter to U.S. President Ronald Reagan that included these powerful words:

What some call the "West Bank," Mr. President, is Judea and Samaria; and this simple historic truth will never change. There are cynics who deride history. They may continue their derision as they wish, but I will stand by the truth. And the truth is that millennia ago there was a Jewish kingdom of Judea and Samaria where our kings knelt to God, where our prophets brought forth the vision of eternal peace, where we developed a rather rich civilization which we took with us, in our hearts and in our minds, on our long global trek for over 18 centuries; and, with it, we came back home.

Israel will not survive unless her citizens elect a Prime Minister who speaks the truth--and acts on it--the way that Menachem Begin did. In 1981, Begin's administration bravely destroyed Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear weapons facility as Begin vowed that he "will not be the man in whose time there will be a second Holocaust." No one else had the courage and the foresight to do what Begin did--and Begin was roundly criticized at the time, in what William Safire described as "an orgy of hypocrisy," by nations and commentators who had been silent as France, Italy and other countries conspired with Iraq to develop a nuclear weapons program whose primary target was the Jewish State. Netanyahu is not built from the same moral fiber as Begin, which means that it is unlikely that under Netanyahu's watch Israel will have the necessary resolve to confront Iran, whose leaders have clearly and repeatedly stated their goal to destroy Israel. Israel cannot expect to be saved by anyone else--and if Israel does not act then the Iranians will develop a nuclear weapon and deploy it against Israel.

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