Begin’s Desire for Military Parade on Israel’s Independence Day Stirs a Controversy

Israel’s Independence Day is more than six months away but a controversy is already boiling over Premier Menachem Begin’s desire for a military parade next April 18 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Jewish State. Opinion is split along party lines.

Sources close to the Premier say he wants a parade to boost national morale and create stronger identification between the people and the army. Opponents argue that the cost would be prohibitive and the display of armed might would allow Israel’s enemies to accuse her of militarism.

Begin has pointed out that Independence Day military parades were the rule rather than the exception during the 30 years when the Labor Party governed the country. Labor Party Secretary General Haim Barlev, a former Chief of Staff, said he thought Israel was mature enough to dispense with such spectacles. Barlev stressed that he spoke for himself, not his party. Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin a Labor MK said he saw no reason to oppose a parade.

Treasury circles have been quoted anonymously as saying a parade would cost about 400 million Shekels which Israel’s staggering economy can ill afford. Begin wants the parade in Jerusalem. Mayor Teddy Kollek, a Laborite, is opposed for both national and urban reasons. A Begin aide, Deputy Minister Dov Shilansky, accused the Laborites of wanting to deprive Begin of the honor of taking the salute at a parade that will be televised nationally and overseas. The opponents hotly deny this.

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