Menachem Begin

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Israel is still the only country in the world against which there is a written document to the effect that it must disappear.

Menachem Begin (16 August 19139 March 1992) was an Israeli politician and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before Independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on February 1, 1944, against the British mandatory government, which was opposed by the Jewish Agency. He played a significant role in Jewish resistance against the British control in the waning years of the mandate, leading the more militant faction within Zionism. Begin's most significant achievement as Prime Minister was the signing of a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, for which he and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Prize for Peace.


  • The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized .... Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever.
    • Iron Wall, p. 25 & Simha Flapan, p. 32
  • Israel will not transfer Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District to any foreign sovereign authority, [because] of the historic right of our nation to this land, [and] the needs of our national security, which demand a capability to defend our State and the lives of our citizens."
    • Iron Wall, p. 356
  • Mr. President, I wish to tell you something personal - not about me, but about my generation. What you have just heard about the Jewish people's inherent rights to the Land of Israel may seem academic to you, theoretical, even moot. But not to my generation. To my generation of Jews these eternal bonds are indisputable and incontrovertible truths, as old as recorded time. They touch upon the very core of our national being. Ours is an almost biblical generation of suffering and courage. Ours is the generation of Destruction and Redemption. Ours is the generation that rose up from the bottomless pit of Hell. We were a helpless people, Mr. President. We were bled white, not once, not twice, but century after century, over and over again. We lost a third of our people in one generation - mine. One-and-a-half million of them were children - ours. No one came to our rescue. We were tertiated, Mr. President. ... Tertiated, not decimated. The origin of the word 'decimation' is one in 10. When a Roman legion was found guilty of insubordination one in 10 was put to the sword. In our case it was one in three - tertiated! ... Sir, I take an oath before you in the name of the Jewish people - this will never ever happen again.
    • Amb. Yehuda Avner's account of a meeting with U.S. President Jimmy Carter (July 1977)
  • In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him. This was a war of self-defence in the noblest sense of the term. The government of national unity then established decided unanimously: We will take the initiative and attack the enemy, drive him back, and thus assure the security of Israel and the future of the nation.
  • Upon completion of the centennial of your birth – and this time only – we have come to address some remarks at your graveside. We report to you, Rosh Betar, that Jerusalem, the city that has become bound together, the eternal capital of Israel and of the Land of Israel, shall not be subjected to any division and is our liberated and indivisible capital and so it shall remain from generation to generation.
    The western part of the Land of Israel is entirely under our control and it shall not be partitioned anymore. No part of this land shall be given over to a foreign administration, to foreign sovereignty.
    We believe that a day will come when the two parts of the Land of Israel shall establish, peacefully, in agreement and understanding a covenant of alliance, a free confederation, for the purpose of join cooperation


  • "Our race is the Master Race. We are divine gods on this planet. We are as different from the inferior races as they are from insects. In fact, compared to our race, other races are beasts and animals, cattle at best. Other races are considered as human excrement. Our destiny is to rule over the inferior races. Our earthly kingdom will be ruled by our leader with a rod of iron. The masses will lick our feet and serve us as our slaves."
  • "Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid."
    • attributed as alleged reply to Senator Joe Biden in Ronn Torossian's op-ed "Menachem Begin To Joe Biden: I Am Not A Jew With Trembling Knees", in 2015 without source. Possibly of earlier origin.
      • Begin's own recount of the exchange, at "acerbic" visit to the US Congress in 1982 (during the Lebanon War, to which Reagan himself reportedly referred to as "holocaust" [Ottawa Citizen, Aug 30, 1982]), as found in the official statement (June 03, 1982), wildly differs in not remotely being as combative:
        • "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. The argument went approximately thus."
      • On the other hand, contemporary reports give the true quote as also being far less verbose. As found in Time Magazine's contemporary report (George J. Church, July 05, 1982):
        • "Don't threaten us with cutting off aid to give up our principles!"

Quotes about Begin[edit]

  • As a result of considerable effort, the Carter administration helped to arrange a peace settlement between Egypt and Israel, with the Camp David Accords of 17 September 1978 followed by the Egypt-Israel treaty of 26 March 1979. The Camp David Accords focused on ‘peace for land’, Israel withdrawing from its Sinai (although not Gaza) gains of 1967, and Egypt, in return, signing a formal peace treaty with Israel, and thereby giving recognition. Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President, who had expelled Soviet advisers in 1972, wanted to include the Palestinians in the treaty, but Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister, was willing only to agree to an informal link to a temporary halt on new Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The peace process was condemned by the Soviet Union and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation). Nevertheless, the peace agreement helped lessen tensions in the Middle East (not least by isolating Syria and the PLO), which was important as, from 1979, the Cold War was to become far more difficult in South Asia.
  • It is not true that the solutions proposed by the Zionists, of whatever shade, represented historical realism as against the inconsistent utopianism of the Bund. Certainly the prophets were not numerous, but they have to be given their due: Kurt Tucholsky, for example, who already in the mid-1920s sounded the alarm, in a Weimar Republic prey to the demons of order, nationalism, xenophobia and dreams of revanchism; Leon Trotsky, who in the late 1920s warned that the fate of Europe was being played out in Germany, and understood that the bankruptcy of German communism in the face of Hitler bore within it the inexorable unfurling of horror. At this time they were preaching in the desert, including the desert of Judaea. The rabbis who called for obedience to the temporal power in all circumstances, and the inspirers of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon who at the time paraded in black shirts, are not best placed to cast the first stone at these Jewish visionaries and militants who were struggling at this time for a better world.
    • Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (2016)
  • The reason for raising this is that the Israeli position in the past was that they would withdraw from the West Bank, and I believe that Prime Minister Begin left the Cabinet over this issue.
    On the West Bank and Gaza, Prime Minister Begin put forward a proposal which could be the core around which an agreement could be reached.
  • an agreement on the Sinai might come first, with a later accord on "Judea and Samaria." ('Begin always referred to the West Bank by the two biblical names - I presume to engender the notion that this was the promised land which God Himself had given to the Jews.)
  • he (Shimon Peres) maintains an ongoing dialogue with the intellectual community. Now that is real change from, say, Menachem Begin-not to mention Golda Meir!
  • In the short run, the identity of victim does, indeed, pay off...In the longer run, the perpetuation of the victim identity causes complete severance from reality, utter dependence on the past and the past alone, and distortions of all proportions and emphases to the point of warping the personality. We do not lack examples...Mr. Begin tried to excuse the violent invasion of Lebanon in 1982 with symbols from the Holocaust. Every seizure of Arab property in the West Bank is made under the banner and in the name of the victim identity, which many of us abhor...Why? Because we are the victim. Even relative to the villagers whom we divested of land, we are victims.
    • Shulamith Hareven "Identity: Victim" in The Vocabulary of Peace: Life, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East (1995)
  • The war in Lebanon cannot be interpreted, even by its most devoted proponents in Israel, as a war of survival. For this reason, the government has gone to extraordinary lengths to dehumanize the Palestinians. 'Begin described them in a speech at the Knesset as 'beasts walking on two legs'. Palestinians have often been calls 'bugs' while their refugee camps in Lebanon are referred to as 'tourist camps'. In order to rationalize the bombing of civilian populations, Begin emotively declared 'If Hitler was sitting in a house with 20 other people, would it be correct to blow up the house?"

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