LONDON (Jul. 24)
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher praised Shlomo Argov, the former Israeli Ambassador to London, as “a true citizen of the free world who cherishes freedom and justice and is utterly opposed to those who assault them.”
She spoke at a special dinner last Thursday night in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, only 200 yards from the spot where, 13 months ago, Argov was shot by an Arab terrorist. His life was saved but he has since been almost totally paralyzed.
Hava Argov, his wife, told the guests, who also included former Prime Minister James Callaghan, that despite her husband’s grave condition there was “some light at the end of the tunnel.” The Hadassah Hospital, where he is being treated, had begun allowing him home at weekends, and in a few months, she hoped he would come home permanently.
Until recently, Argov was remembered here chiefly for the high caliber of his advocacy of Israel’s cause while serving as its Ambassador to Britain in difficult times. Thursday night, though, there was also a reference to his criticism of Israel’s full-scale invasion of Lebanon, for which the attack on Argov had served as a pretext.
REACTION TO ARGOV’S STATEMENT
In view of his physical condition, British Jewry has so far refrained from reacting to his comments, which were dictated from his hospital bed in Israel to a friend earlier this month and printed in Haaretz. Nevertheless, they have had a very profound impact, stirring the deep misgivings which many communal leaders have felt over some aspects of the Lebanese operation.
Commenting on them Thursday night, Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits declared: “We are happy that he was able to speak out recently, though we have sorely missed his superb spokesmanship this past year. “
Argov was shot when leaving a diplomatic reception at the nearby Dorchester Hotel, Fear of a similar incident Thursday night was reflected in the large numbers of security men inside and outside the hotel.
Among the guests was Dr. Norman Grant, the British neurosurgeon, who saved Argov’s life after Argov was rushed to the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, two miles away, suffering from severe head wounds. After the operation the Ambassador remained unconscious for several weeks. Also present were the Ambassador’s drive and his British police bodyguard, who shot one of his assailants.
Mrs. Thatcher, who was accompanied by her husband, devoted most of her speech to the condemnation of political terrorism and a call for “closer and closer cooperation between governments” in combatting it.
MESSAGE FROM BEGIN
Premier Menachem Begin of Israel, in a written message to the dinner, said of Argov that “in all his dealings his point of reference was not the pragmatic immediate present, but always how the present relates to the future peace and security of Israel.”
The dinner culminated in the creation, in Argov’s name, of professorships in Israeli-diaspora relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and of Bar Ilan University.