Jerusalem (Dec. 6)
Premier Menachem Begin transferred the full powers and authority of his office to Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich last Monday, three days after he was hospitalized for a broken hip, it was disclosed in a lengthy letter the Premier dictated to Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus published in that newspaper last Friday.
Ehrlich, a leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, chaired today’s Cabinet meeting. According to officials he remains in charge of the government for the present.
The unusual 3,000-word letter Begin dictated from his bed in Hadassah Hospital described in detail how his hip joint was fractured when he fell in his bathroom and the subsequent surgery and other treatment. He said he transferred his authority to Ehrlich because he was in too much pain to exercise his duties.
TRUTHFUL ABOUT HIS AILMENTS
But the point Begin stressed in his letter — and the apparent reason he offered it for publication at the newspaper’s discretion — was that he has always been truthful with the public about his various ailments which included two heart attacks. He chided the press for criticizing past Israeli leaders for misleading the public on the subject of their health.
Begin noted that often a politician became indisposed by ill health but felt he would recover with time and be able to carry on. However, political enemies often wanted to use the health issue against him, thus a measure of reticence was justified.
Begin said that he had known that former Premier Golda Meir was suffering from cancer 15-20 years before she died but despite their deep political differences he never used that knowledge to undermine her, although there were some who had urged him “to bring an end to her political career.”