NEW YORK (Aug. 30)
Representatives of leading American Jewish organizations, reacting to Menachem Begin’s decision to resign as Israeli Premier, today praised Begin as an outstanding leader who will be remembered for his dedication and commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Calling him “a great Jew,” Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Begin “will surely occupy an enduring place in Jewish history as a patriot and peacemaker, animated by a profound love of Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people. In many ways, his personal history reflects that of the Jewish people in the struggle he underwent for human dignity and security.”
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said he “deeply regrets” Begin’s decision to step down. “I am confident that history will judge him to have been one of Israel’s great statesmen a strong leader who had the courage to take risks for peace. Jews everywhere will remember his staunch and constant defense of their rights and safety.”
Kenneth Bialkin, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, expressed “gratitude and respect” for Begin’s “remarkable and courageous leadership of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” Begin will be remembered for “his determination that Israel be quick to seize real opportunities for peace, as evidenced by his government’s sacrifice of land, oil, air bases and settlements to Egypt,” Bialkin said in reference to the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai in compliance with the Camp David accords.
SEES NO CHANGE IN ISRAEL’S MIDEAST POLICY
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Meir Rosenne, said in New York that he expects that the “excellent” relationship between Israel and the United States will continue into the future, despite Begin’s resignation.
Rosenne, who addressed a meeting of the Synagogue Council of America at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, also said in response to reporters questions, that there will be no change in Israel’s Mideast policy. “Israeli policy in the Mideast is to achieve peace. We have a unanimity on that in Israel,” the Ambassador declared.
He refused, however, to discuss Begin’s resignation, asserting that “nothing is official” as yet and that Begin decided to resign for “personal reasons.”
Henry Kissinger, a former Secretary of State, described Begin in a television interview today as “a most remarkable man, the last of his generation that helped found Israel … very legalistic, extremely stubborn, not a joy to negotiate with.” He indicated that a change in leadership in Israel would not lead to any substantial policy changes.
Alleck Resnick, president of the Zionist Organization of America paid tribute to Begin, saying Israel “must continue to benefit from the strength, leadership and vision of Menachem Begin.” Declaring that Begin “ranks with the greatest of Israeli statesmen,” Resnick said “I profoundly hope and feel that his service to the State of Israel … will not end when he leaves that office.”
Howard Friedman, president of the American Jewish Committee, said Begin “stood ready to make sacrifices necessary for peace even when this conflicted with ideological habits of a lifetime. Like so many of Israel’s founding fathers, he demonstrated that sturdy independence and strength of character that has helped the Jewish State weather so many perils.”
Bemice Tannenbaum, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-American Section, said that with Begin’s departure from office, Israel “loses the leadership of a determined, devoted and respected personality with many accomplishments to his credit. While the peace compact with Egypt crowned his career as the key to eventual normalization of Israel’s relations with its neighbors, he also gained the respect of the Jewish people for his unwavering defense of Israel’s position on the international scene.”
Howard Squadron and Henry Siegman, president and executive director, respectively, of the American Jewish Congress, said in a statement that Begin’s decision “is obviously personal rather than political” but nevertheless “consistent with the personal integrity that has characterized his entire life. The policies and ideology of Begin have been the subjects of controversy both inside and outside of Israel. But he has earned the respect and admiration of supporters and opponents alike for his outstanding leadership qualities and selfless dedication to the well-being of Israel and of the Jewish people everywhere.”
BEGIN TERMED ISRAEL’S GREATEST PEACEMAKER
Expressing “deep regrets and sympathetic understanding,” Harold Jacobs, president of the National Council of Young Israel, said, “The Jewish people and the state of Israel can ill afford to lose such a gifted and dedicated leader.” Begin maintains “the undisputed distinction of being Israel’s greatest peacemaker” and “in the final analysis, Begin’s policies and actions will be judged to be among the greatest achievements for world peace and human freedom in our generation,” Jacobs asserted.
William Berkowitz, president of the American Jewish Heritage Committee, said Begin will “be remembered as a great statesman … by boldly taking the giant steps necessary for bringing peace between Israel and its largest Arab neighbor, Egypt. A man of great courage and commitment, he was no stranger to struggle or controversy as he sought with devotion and perseverance, his people’s and nation’s goals of independence, peace and security.”
A LEADER OF RARE PRINCIPLE
Eryk Spektor, national chairman of the Herut Zionists of America, praised Begin “as the outstanding Jewish figure of our generation” and noted his efforts toward the establishment of the Jewish State as commander of the Irgun and his role in achieving peace with Egypt. “History will judge him as one of the greatest Jewish heroes of all time,” Spektor said.
Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said Begin’s resignation removes “an experienced political leader of rare principle” from the Israeli and world Jewry scene. “He was one of the last of Israeli political leaders who carries the memory of European Jewish life and who projected its legacy into his ministry, ” Klaperman said.