NEW YORK (Jul. 17)
Binyamin Zeev Begin, who for years refused to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, former Premier Menachem Begin, said that he entered politics because Israel is at a crossroads, “and very serious decisions have to be made” in the near future.
The 45-year-old Begin, who captured seventh place on Herut’s upcoming election slate and 13th place on the Likud list, has overnight become a political celebrity, — together with another newcomer to Israeli politics, former U.N. Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu.
In an interview here Wednesday, Begin refused to say whether his father, who the younger Begin clearly resembles, had anything to do with his sudden decision to enter politics.
“Look,” he said, “I never discuss what my father and I discuss in private. Everybody in Israel knows this by now.”
Asked about his father, who resigned in 1984 in the aftermath of the Lebanon war and who has been leading a life of solitude in his Jerusalem flat, the younger Begin said, “He is doing fine Just fine.”
Begin said that he sees his father often and that they last met several days ago.
The younger Begin, who has a doctorate in geology and is an employee of the Israeli Energy Ministry, said that his decision to enter politics was also influenced by continued pressure from “my friends and colleagues.”
Begin’s sudden stardom has come under fire in the Israeli press, which attributes his political success to his name rather than his credentials.
Begin joins other Likud politicians with famous last names–such as Netanyahu and Dan Meridor, a Knesset member and son of Yaakov Meridor, a Herut leader who was also a member of the Knesset. They have become known to the Israeli public as the “princes.”
“Well, this is just a journalistic coin,” said the smiling Begin, who is known to his friends as Benny. “I can live with it. I did not lose much sleep because of it.”
As for Likud’s prospects in the next election, scheduled for Nov. 1, Begin said he believes his party has a “very good chance” to win the elections.
He refused, however, to speculate whether the uprising in the West Bank and Gaza, which entered its eighth month last week, will help the right-wing Likud in defeating the Labor Party.
“We have to be patient and see what the results will be,” he said somewhat diplomatically.
Prior to the interview, Begin was the keynote speaker at the 48th annual memorial for Zeev Jabotinsky, the father of revisionist Zionism, at the Sheraton Centre here.
“Without total control of Judea and Samaria, Israel will not be able to defend herself,” Begin told the more than 600 people who attended the meeting, which was sponsored by Herut-U.S.A.
“We shall never relinquish any part of Eretz Yisrael. We intend to keep it–and we shall keep it. It is our country,” he declared to the applause of the audience.
But Begin said he is “vehemently against” proposals to transfer Arabs out of Israel and the territories as a solution to the demographic problem in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.