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Haim Landau Dead at 65

Former Transport Minister Haim Landau (Likud-Herut), a close friend and comrade-in-arms of Premier Menachem Begin, died last Thursday night in Tel Aviv after a long illness and was buried Friday. The Premier and other Ministers attended his funeral. Landau was 65 years old.

Born in Cracow, he came to Palestine in his late teens, already a devotee of the Betar Revisionist Zionist movement, and studied engineering at the Haifa Technion. In the heyday of the Irgun, Landau, codenamed “Avraham,” was chief of operations of the underground movement and in effect commander and Begin’s right hand man.

“He was the central pillar of our organization,” Begin later wrote of him. “Avrahm — this I shall always call him — was a fount of energy, ever untiring and undespairing … He worked 18 hours a day, always with a smile on his face, although not always in his heart. All the bad tidings used to reach him before they reached me. He stood as firm as a rock.”

From 1948 to 1977 Landau served as a Herut Knesset member, speaking for the opposition on foreign policy issues. He was a member of the national unity government (1967-70) and joined Begin’s first Administration as Transport Minister. In this job he threw himself energetically into the war against road accidents — and the statistics show conclusively that his efforts produced a significant decline in the carnage on Israel’s highways.

“When I get to heaven,” the always jovial Landau told an aide recently, “the angels will beat me for my sins. I’ll tell them: ‘Not so hard … Give me some credit for the lives of all the little children I saved on Israel’s roads’.” A political hardliner, Landau abstained in the Cabinet on the historic votes during the peace process with Egypt and on the issue of autonomy for the Palestinians on the West Bank and the evacuation from Sinai. Once the die was cast, however, he muted his opposition and stayed in the Cabinet. About a year ago he was felled by cancer and never regained his health.

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