Minister of Public Diplomacy & Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein
addressing Likud Anglos’ first annual Memorial for
Menachem Begin at the
Sunday, March 27th. Photo: Jared Sarfin / Likud Anglos.
JERUSALEM, March 29, 2011—Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein told an audience of anglophone Likudniks that people need to “watch their language” when talking about Israel.
“Whenever people ask me ‘what can we do?’ I answer in this impolite manner, saying ‘watch your language,’” Edelstein said half jokingly.
Edelstein’s comments came as part of praise for Menachem Begin at an English-language memorial for the late prime minister held by Likud Anglos on Sunday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
Edelstien professed his admiration for Begin’s precision with words and terminology, as well as the late prime minister’s perseverance and steadfastness in asserting Israel’s rights and combating lies about Israel. “This is a very important message: how we speak, and what we speak about... [this is] the development that Menachem Begin would like to see,” Edelstein said.
Addressing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and how the current tumult in the Arab world affects its value, Edelstein noted that “[a]s a democrat, as a European, [Begin] should have understood how fragile peace with any country is if it’s a dictatorship, and how things quickly change.... Can any of us imagine the nightmare of not having the Golan Heights and having a peace treaty with Assad [given] what is going on in Syria?” Begin must have thought, concluded Edelstein, that “even a cold peace... is better than a good war.”
In addition to the cabinet minister, the memorial included comments from Yisrael Medad, Director of Information Resources at the Begin Center, as well as a short video on Begin’s life and several video clips of English-language interviews given by Begin.
Medad, who is also co-editor of the new book Peace in the Making: The Menachem Begin – Anwar Sadat Correspondence (2011), discussed Begin’s commitment to the Land of Israel in the context of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, considered one of Begin’s major accomplishments.
Medad cited Begin’s response to Sadat’s statement in the Knesset that Israel was “a land that did not all belong to you.” Begin replied, “No, sir, we took no foreign land. We returned to our Homeland. The bond between our People and this Land is eternal. It was created at the dawn of human history. It was never severed.”
Addressing Begin’s agreement to the term “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” which was criticized by the Right as referring to a Palestinian state, Medad noted that “Begin had quipped at one point that yes, the Palestinian people have legitimate rights, and one of them was to not establish a Palestinian state.”
Daniel Tauber, chairman of the Jerusalem branch of Likud Anglos, pointed to Begin’s time in prison, where he refused to sign a declaration of guilt for his Zionist activities in Poland. “In that interrogation room... it was Herzl versus Marx.” Rather than assigning guilt to the Jewish people for reclaiming their homeland, Begin succeeded in convincing his captors to remove the word “guilt” from the document.
The story is recounted by Begin in his memoir, White Nights, which as Medad pointed out, Natalie Portman read in preparation for her role in the blockbuster film V for Vendetta, in which her character is arrested by KGB-like police.
Comparing the pressure exerted on Israel today with that which Begin faced in prison, Tauber noted that the majority of Israel’s prime ministers warned of the dangers of a Palestinian state before reversing their position due to immense external pressure. Begin, however, taught a valuable lesson about commitment to the truth in the face of the pressure - the truth that the Land of Israel “is not a gift from the West or stolen Arab land. It is our country.”