Begin Leaves Long Hospital Stay Looking Spry and Cracking Jokes

Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin may be emerging from the semireclusive lifestyle he adopted after his surprise resignation and abandonment of politics in 1984.

He broke his political silence Thursday in reply to reporters’ questions on the occasion of his being released from Ichilov Hospital here after a seven-month stay.

The 78-year-old retired Likud leader also cracked a political joke at the expense of his longtime socialist rivals.

Begin, though frequently ill in recent years, seemed spry and completely up-to-date on what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

Asked whether Israel should agree to put the Golan Heights on the agenda in what are still hypothetical peace talks with Syria, Begin reminded the reporters that it was he who initiated the annexation of the Syrian territory in 1980.

“Permit me to point out that I was prime minister in those days. I proposed adoption of the Golan Heights Law, which still stands,” he said, adding, “I hope there will be no change.”

Begin said he hoped the government would do everything possible to end the recent wave of knife attacks on Jews by Arabs in Israel.

Begin was transferred to Ichilov Hospital from Jerusalem last year after breaking his hip in a fall. He was under treatment in the geriatric ward and is able to walk with the aid of a cane.

As he approached his waiting car, he joked with doctors who suggested he lean on a railing.

“Thanks, but I never lean to the left,” said the politician, who headed Israel’s first right-wing government in 1977 after 30 years of Labor rule.

NEXT STORY