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Saturday, January 3, 2009
Haaretz Magazine interview with Benny Begin

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: The English translation on the Haaretz website is
missing the last few sentences. IMRA adds its own translation in place of
the missing lines]

'Theater of the absurd'

By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent - Haaretz Magazine section 2 December
2009
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1051965.html

The journalist Amnon Abramovich once said that whereas Dan Meridor is decent
in a passive way, Dr. Ze'ev Benjamin "Benny" Begin is decent in an active
way. And the truth is that Benny Begin has always been decent - the prince
without a crown, the minister who is not power-hungry, the MK who travels by
bus. Not long after he entered the Knesset at the end of the 1980s, the son
of the prime minister, who lived in a three-room apartment on an unassuming
street in Tel Aviv, became the Kadish Luz of the new Israeli politics. Like
that legendary ramrod-straight Knesset speaker, Benjamin of the House of
Begin preserved Spartan modesty and rare virtue in a period when the
corridors of power were thick with cigar smoke, and ministers chalked up
miles on first-class flights. Begin was not only faithful to the rule of
law, but also a stickler for the rule of norms. The quintessential opposite
of his friend Ehud Olmert, he was popular and held in high regard both by
the Likud Party Central Committee and by the Meretz Knesset faction.

However, in the 1990s Benny Begin also became a bit strange. When the Oslo
Accords were signed and the Oslo paradigm became the unassailable Oslo
model, Begin objected. When the left swore by Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat and the center followed the left, Begin declared that the emperor was
naked. In contrast to other Likud "princes," who became involved in the
process in one way or another, the younger Begin remained the "guardian of
the gate" of the Land of Israel. Together with the Middle East expert Yigal
Carmon, he established a kind of alternative civilian intelligence branch
that collected, processed and distributed counter-paradigm information.

The insistence of a lone MK that the accepted picture of reality was
groundless led to a situation in which he was perceived as anomalous,
obsessive and sometimes batty. Even though in the end it turned out that
Begin was right and the consensus was wrong, the Likud crown prince was
increasingly shunted to the sidelines. Isolated, battered and embittered, he
forsook the political arena nine and a half years ago.

Begin's return to that arena two months ago took even Benjamin Netanyahu by
surprise. The director of the Geological Institute made his decision, MK
Reuven Rivlin did the coordinating, and Netanyahu received a gift he never
dared to dream of. The willingness of Mr. Integrity to align himself with a
leader whom he had savaged in the past energized the Likud. The arrival of
Mr. Clean, Benny, to combat Mrs. Clean - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni -
neutralized one of her cardinal advantages. However, Begin's return also
gave rise to questions. Had the guardian of the gate returned to keep tabs
on Netanyahu and prevent him from moving to the center? Would Begin's
political clout and his moral authority not transform the Likud from a
center-right to a right-right party?

The conversation with Benny Begin took place on a wintry Jerusalem morning,
about 28 hours before the onset of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. At
the beginning of this week a few additional brief conversations were held to
fill in gaps and update his comments. In none of these did candidate Begin
seek to retract or recast anything he had said. Clearly and lucidly, he
spoke his truth. In precise and accurate Hebrew, he set forth his world
view. And as he shifted from high language to the vernacular and from
learned quotations to youthful humor, he was both Begin and Benny. Both a
rather mummified gentleman and a sarcastic sabra. A rare Jabotinskyite
fossil, now extinct, that suddenly burst out of present-day Israel as it
delivers hammer-blows to its adversary.

As prime minister, your father, Menachem Begin, led Israel into the first
Lebanon War to dismantle the terrorist entity that was established in that
country, which threatened the Galilee. Is that what Israel should be doing
now in Gaza? Should the military operation be expanded to dismantle the
terrorist entity that is threatening the country's south?

Begin: "Gaza presents us with a military problem and that problem has a
military solution. When I heard Mrs. Livni talking about bringing down the
Hamas government, my feeling was that she did not grasp the full import of
her words. I thought the goal of the operation should be limited: to end the
firing of the missiles. Happily, that is the mission with which the
government charged the Israel Defense Forces, and it too is not simple. Even
though I think the abandonment of the Gaza district was a serious mistake, I
do not think the status quo ante can be restored. I do not see Israel
returning to Gaza for the long term.

"With his decency, Shimon Peres said three weeks ago that we made a mistake
regarding Gaza. We uprooted dozens of settlements and in their place got
rocket-launching bases. In contrast, the foreign minister remains
recalcitrant. Just a month ago I heard her say that the 'disengagement' was
not a mistake. That statement casts a heavy shadow over her judgment. To
this is added her call to topple Hamas and her proposal to reply with fire
to the sources of firing. What does it mean to fire back at the sources of
fire? You know, the source of the fire lies within population centers.
Firing back means the use of artillery fire, which will target innocent
people. That must not be done here. A black flag flies over that proposal.

"What I see is a theater of the absurd. I see people who are in the
government speaking as though they were not part of the government. I see
them shaking off responsibility and displaying irresponsibility. Why does
Livni say that she must have Haim Ramon at her side? Why does she say,
'Don't leave, Haim, stay'? After all, Ramon is urging, with total
irresponsibility, that we topple and destroy and annihilate and smash and
destroy. And he is doing so with the same militancy he showed when he called
for leaving and withdrawing and getting out.

"I am only a geologist, not a psychologist. Nor am I a nephrologist or a
cardiologist - I do not read people's inner thoughts. But I wonder whether
the bellicose cries in Kadima for war to topple Hamas are not related to an
attempt to atone for the grave mistake of handing territory to Hamas. I also
see a connection between shaking off responsibility and irresponsibility.
Because, you know, what Kadima did in the past three years was to trade in
illusions. What was the trade? We will give you illusions and you will give
us votes. The trade failed but the transaction succeeded politically. The
illusions were shattered, but Livni refuses to admit it. And I do not know
whether this nation possesses sufficient strength to pay the price of more
illusions.

"An opinion about the acting prime minister's ability to deal with security
issues was expressed by her colleague, the minister of defense. Ehud Barak
expressed himself colorfully on the question of who could take a phone call
at any time of day or night. Barak is more familiar than I am with Livni's
activity and her methods of operation, and in this matter I suggest that we
take his word and trust his judgment."

In light of the tremendous numbers of casualties, among them many civilians,
do you think that the way the current army operation in Gaza is being
handled is justified and proportional?

"An operation is not measured only by the outcome, but also by the
intention. From what I gather from the media, the intention of the operation
is to hurt the Hamas infrastructure, not civilians. The question of whether
it would have been possible to avoid it, in its present scope, by preventing
the 'disengagement' [he insists that the word be written in quotation marks]
will be discussed later. The question of whether it was necessary to allow
Hamas to increase its might with long-range missiles will also be discussed.
But Cast Lead is an operation we in the Likud have been calling for for some
time."

Older and more mature

When you left politics you had some scathingly critical things to say about
Benjamin Netanyahu. Now you are starting your new path in politics by giving
him a "certificate of kashrut."

"I am not an institution that hands out kashrut certificates. I am not the
president of the lower court or of the higher court. I joined a public
struggle aimed at giving Israel a worthy leadership."

Is Netanyahu honest?

"Please, release me from having to answer all questions that deal with
personal matters."

Is Netanyahu strong and courageous?

"It takes a lot of courage and determination to head a small battered party
of 12 MKs and bring it to the place to which Bibi has brought it. It's true
that he had help ... Still, his effort and his achievement are estimable.
Netanyahu displayed tenacity."

Do you believe that Netanyahu is capable of making the fateful decisions
that will be required of an Israeli prime minister in the years ahead?

"I would draw your attention to the significant difference between the team
that we are planning to bring to the government, and the faded and dreary
leadership group of Kadima. I will give you an example. This week we held a
discussion about security. It was conducted in an exemplary manner. Not
everyone in the room will be a cabinet minister, but they will all have a
part in managing the country's security and strategic affairs. When I looked
around the table I saw Benjamin Netanyahu, Yuval Steinitz, Moshe 'Bogey'
Ya'alon, Uzi Dayan, Moshe Arens, Dan Meridor, Gideon Sa'ar, Silvan Shalom,
Yossi Peled and Uzi Arad. Is there any basis for comparison between that
leadership and the Kadima leadership?"

I asked about the leader, about the person you belittled so much in the
past.

"I said what I said: Bibi matured by 10 years and I aged by 10 years. We are
working together and I think we can work together well. Netanyahu will be
first among equals. My father and mentor once asked me: What is the meaning
of the expression 'first among equals,' which would seem to contain an
internal contradiction?' And my father and mentor had an answer: 'They see
him as first and he sees them as equals.'"

But most of you are politically to the right of him. Almost all of the first
10 places in the Likud slate of Knesset candidates are taken by
right-wingers. If Netanyahu is only first among equals, he will not be able
to implement a compromise or advance a diplomatic process.

"The terms 'left' and 'right' are old and antiquated. The reality is clear
and simple There are some among the public and within the leadership who are
willing to delude themselves and the many, and there is another group that
sees the dangers clearly, after not being afraid to look at reality in the
past. The difference is not between right and left, but between purveyors of
illusions, and people who are sober and clear-eyed. The Likud leadership
contains such people, who understand what happened here in the past 15 years
and have drawn the logical conclusion. We all know that it is impossible to
escape the main fact: Every part of our land that is abandoned becomes a
terrorist base against Israel's citizens."

But Dan Meridor is almost Meretz in his outlook and you are almost National
Union. How can you ask people to vote for both Meridor and Begin on the same
ticket?

"Those who vote for Dan and me will get two friends who have cooperated for
many years. We have a broad common base in the area of Israel's security and
in regard to the need to strengthen the judicial system, and in the
awareness that social justice is a vital element in a free economy. The
difference between us over peace policy exists, but we both agree there is
no point in engaging with it in the coming years, given the extreme and
uncompromising approach of the Arab side, which continues to insist on the
right of refugees to return to their very homes. The Jews are known for
their argumentative tendency. But both Dan and I understand that now is the
time to avoid dispute. Since he, too, believes that six or seven years will
pass before the disagreement between us assumes concrete form, there is no
point in dealing with it at this time."

Will the same logic prompt you to support the formation of a national-unity
government?

"In light of the challenges confronting Israel, we need a broad-shouldered
government. Both the Barak government and the Kadima government were ready
to make far-reaching concessions, but did not achieve an agreement.
Accordingly, at this point in time avoiding concessions does not put any
agreement at risk. I suggest deferring ideological disagreements that are
not relevant at this time and formulating minimal basic guidelines to enable
the formation of a broad government."

If so, maybe it will be right for the broad government to be led by Tzipi
Livni.

"Tzipi Livni was the acting prime minister and the foreign minister during
the Second Lebanon War. She is responsible for the outcome of the war in
Lebanon. The GOC Northern Command, the chief of staff and the minister of
defense resigned. The prime minister is now concluding his term of office,
but Mrs. Livni continues to shake off responsibility, is not drawing
conclusions and is riding a white horse to the premiership."

Livni set herself apart from Olmert; she purports to represent a different
politics.

"Livni promised a different politics and is implementing a different
politics. It is so different. I have never heard of anything like it and I
do not want anything like it here. All the cabinet ministers bear
responsibility for the failure of the Second Lebanon War, certainly the
acting prime minister. You know, you can't have it both ways. You can't both
enjoy the luxury of a formidable title - and also say it's not me, it's him;
both to be one step away from the throne and also to distance yourself. What
kind of behavior is that? It is unacceptable. That behavior just goes to
show that even though Livni has a modicum of legal education, she does not
understand the fundamentals of our democratic and parliamentary system. One
of the principles of that regime is the collective responsibility of the
government. I understand that Livni's team of propagandists is explaining to
her how to behave and how to absolve herself and how to label herself
vis-a-vis Olmert, but it really is a travesty.

"In personal terms, I am certain that the foreign minister's behavior is
impeccable. But her public behavior shows that she doesn't have a clue about
the responsibility she is charged with. An acting prime minister who informs
the whole world that the prime minister must resign and then continues to
serve under him is a political invention that is out of the question
wherever basic democratic norms are preserved."

The foreign minister is perceived as principled and untainted.

"The foreign minister bears responsibility for [Security Council] Resolution
1701, in which she takes great pride. Under the auspices of Resolution 1701,
Hezbollah has tripled the number of warheads in its possession. The foreign
minister is also responsible for the 'disengagement.' She marketed it
enthusiastically and explained the tranquility that would descend upon us
once the settlements would be uprooted, how we would leave the Gaza district
and the terrorist organizations would take it over. She did not heed our
warnings and cannot absolve herself of that grave mistake. Accordingly, it
can be said that the foreign minister has repeatedly shown policy
misjudgment.

"But in addition to the serious deficiency in judgment, Mrs. Livni has shown
a serious deficiency in public courage. Even if she has an opinion, she does
not stand by it. This is compounded by a serious deficiency in understanding
the democratic process and responsibility as a senior member of the
government. So the question is: Where is the limit? After a lengthy series
of failures, is it still possible to say that she is worthy to be prime
minister?

"Accordingly, I tell you that Kadima is an unworthy group headed by an
acting prime minister who shakes off responsibility. That group has to
leave. All of them. In any other country those people would be told: You are
incapable of managing things, sit on the sidelines, learn how to manage. You
can learn it in a correspondence course with the Open University or in a
management course on the Internet. But leave this country alone. Let worthy
people manage it."

What is very obvious is that your wrath is aimed at Kadima and not at Labor,
at Livni but not at Barak.

"A senior figure in Kadima said proudly: 'We have no ideology. Neither
[Revisionist leader] Ze'ev Jabotinsky nor [Labor ideologist] Berl Katznelson
will weigh down our backpack.' So I say that the group in Kadima are
oddballs. It has to be said: oddballs. I don't know if their party can be
called a party, but its base is opportunism. And when it comes to people who
exploit one political opportunity and then a second political opportunity,
who knows what other opportunities they will exploit?

"In contrast, the Labor Party possesses historical depth. It has roots. I
take issue with its path, but it has a path. Its team is also far more
impressive than the meager team of Kadima. That is why it upsets me to see
Labor getting such meager support in the polls. I would prefer the public
with which I am in dispute to vote Labor and not vote for a party full of
hot air, which places at its head a person who shirks responsibility and
shows a lack of political courage."

Are you accusing Tzipi Livni of opportunism?

"If that is not the case, how do you explain the fact that she reached the
leadership of a party that is wholly political opportunism?"

That is not the prevailing opinion about the foreign minister.

"Tzipi Livni is relentlessly mollycoddled. I do not want to talk about the
media, because I believe that there is no press, only individual journalists
... I have no personal complaints against the media; for years it has
treated me very well. And I believe that despite 'Big Brother' and
'Survivor' [reality shows], the media have a paramount role in a democracy.
But unfortunately there were journalists who babied her during the
'disengagement' and journalists who did the same during the tahadiyeh
[cease-fire with Hamas] and there are some who are still mollycoddling Livni
and the hot-air party she leads. I suggest to your colleagues that they
desist from this unpalatable habit. Your role is not to baby, but to go
eyeball-to-eyeball."

'Been there, done that'

Will you agree to the evacuation of any settlements in the future?

"No. We have already been there and done that. We saw what it leads to.
Israeli settlements in Samaria and Judea must not be uprooted, and there
must be an Israeli security presence in Samaria and Judea to prevent
terrorism from rearing its head. Such evacuation would be an act of folly,
of irresponsibility."

Will you agree to the establishment of any sort of Palestinian state in the
West Bank?

"I suggest that this subject be discussed in depth. The headline of the
discussion is: What is the point of an independent Palestinian Arab state in
an area of 6,000 square kilometers in Samaria, Judea and the Gaza district?
And what is the prospect that such a state will be both viable and
peaceful?"

What you are actually saying is that the two-state solution is an illusion.

"The two-state solution is a slogan. I think that today many people in the
left are beginning to see the difficulty. They are starting to understand
that the security forces of Israel will remain in Judea and Samaria for many
years."

Menachem Begin's great historic act was to make peace with Egypt at the
price of Sinai. Will you support Benjamin Netanyahu if he emulates your
father and makes peace with Syria at the expense of the Golan Heights?

"I do not see any substitute not related to land for that defensive 'belt.'
We need to be very apprehensive about the existence of an Iranian base
opposite [Kibbutz] Ein Gev. But I definitely favor direct negotiations with
no prior conditions with the aim of signing a peace treaty between Israel
and Syria."

In other words, the Golan is not Hebron and is not Jerusalem. Here the issue
is not ideological but strategic, so if Syria breaks with Iran and accepts
the principle of the international border, will a territorial compromise be
possible in the north?

"That is a hypothetical question. I ask, I beg that we not deal with this
and not play chess with ourselves. We are not talking here about putting the
cart before the horse, but about an unbuilt cart for horses that are not
even colts. One of Menachem Begin's important actions was to apply Israeli
law, jurisdiction and administration on the Golan Heights. There is also a
thriving Jewish settlement project on the Golan. Those are important opening
data. Another datum is the fact that even the extremely far-reaching
concessions by Mr. Barak did not lead to peace with the elder Assad.
Accordingly, I suggest that we do not ask ourselves 'what-if' and that we do
not ask the Syrians 'what-if' .... There will be direct negotiations, we
will clarify matters. After the initial clarifications in Turkey, we have to
reach direct negotiations quickly, in which it will be possible to clarify
what Syria is actually ready to concede."

You were and still are Greater Israel.

"The opening words of the Declaration of Independence are: 'The Land of
Israel [Eretz Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people.' The
Declaration of Independence was not written by Revisionists, but by
socialists, some of them even radicals. And for them the Land of Israel was
the most basic thing. In the past 15 years all manner of illusions were
tried. Oslo was tried, 'disengagement' was tried. What is the conclusion?
The conclusion is that there is truth in the good old assertion of the Likud
and of Menachem Begin: the right of Israel's citizens to security is
inextricably bound up with the right of the Jewish people to the Land of
Israel."

What you are saying is that your camp has not been mistaken in the least.
Greater Israel was the right idea, the settlements were the right idea, you
were right all along. If the left had not come with Oslo and the center with
the disengagement, we would now be in fine shape.

"The security effectiveness of the world view to which you allude with
sarcasm is now proving itself before the eyes of everyone. We started in
Oslo and got buses exploding in Tel Aviv. We went on to abandon the Gaza
district and got what we are getting today. Many people do not want to see
the reality, but the reality forces itself on us all.

"But security is not the only element. There is also the attachment of the
Jews to their land, to the wellsprings of their culture, to the places where
general humane values were forged in the prophets' vision. A vision that
sprang from this landscape, from the stony soil, from the olives, from the
presses. We have this distinctive, possibly unique situation of a people
that was uprooted and returned after thousands of years. That cannot be
chance. After all, we could have lived in Uganda or in Birobidzhan. We could
have followed Baron Hirsch to the Argentine pampas and be exceedingly rich
today from meat. But none of that happened, because of what the Declaration
of Independence says about the Jews' historic attachment to their ancient
homeland. And because of circumstances created by history, it is impossible
to sever that attachment or our need to live in security.

"Accordingly, my reply to your question is affirmative. Yes, I believe in
the value of the path which Menachem Begin followed and which I follow as
well. But I also believe in its rationality. I think that it is precisely
the people in Israel who purport to be rational are not rational. They are
the ones who do not see reality open-eyed.

"There are two elements here. One is an understandable longing for quiet.
But that quiet is short-term. It is not 50 years old, or even five.
Sometimes it lasts for less than five months. But because the longing for
quiet is so potent, we do not notice that it is purchased at the price of
threats, which become increasingly more serious. More and more difficult to
remove.

"The second element is the desire for the Arabs to disappear. For them to be
there and us here. I find those slogans unconscionable. I am not willing to
speak in terms of 'them.' But beyond that, these slogans have no basis. They
are not historical and not realistic. The Arabs are not going to disappear.
They do not live there, but here.

"The combination of these two elements created a march of folly. A series of
fantasies, of solutions that solved nothing. And when people like you tried
to alert others, they were tagged. I have heard myself called many things:
autistic, astronaut, hallucinatory. But in the end reality intervened and
had its say, and what is said is what my friends and I had argued all along.
That without security control in Samaria, Judea and Gaza there will be no
security in Tel Aviv, either."

Are you not concerned that you will bring down upon us a political and moral
disaster? Without a two-state solution Israel cannot be a democratic Jewish
state. It becomes an illegitimate state, an apartheid state.

"I am familiar with all those arguments, but the more powerful they are, the
more they now rebound to those who voice them. Even people on the left
understand today that because the Oslo accord was scuttled by the Arabs'
perpetration of terrorism, there is no alternative to having the IDF control
security in the areas of the Palestinian Authority. Why? Because otherwise
we will not be able to maintain security in Kfar Sava. It is an imperfect
life and a very complicated reality. We have to choose between two
difficulties.

Accordingly, I say that we have to relieve our neighbors' distress as much
as possible. We have to remember that the other important principle of the
Declaration of Independence is that the State of Israel shall maintain equal
rights for all its citizens. But we have to look at reality squarely. The
basic mistake of the past 15 years was that because of the desire for quiet
and because of the desire not to see what is in front of our eyes, we
departed from the underlying idea that guided Menachem Begin when he
conceived the autonomy plan: the Arabs in Samaria, Judea and Gaza will
conduct their affairs and Israel will stay in charge of security in those
regions."

After all these years, you are still proposing Greater Israel with the
addition of Menachem Begin's autonomy plan?

"Not every old idea is a bad idea. Sometimes an idea is both old and good.
But I am not talking here about Begin's autonomy plan. We had Oslo, the
Palestinian Authority exists, things changed. But what has not changed is
the principle. The Arabs will conduct their affairs and Israel will preserve
its security."

That will not bring peace - we will live by the sword forever.

"There are only two alternatives. Either we live here by our sword or we do
not live here by their sword. There is no other way, as has been proved. The
way of concessions collapsed when we handed over parts of our land and got
terror. I understand that people wanted to believe in that road. People shut
their ears and did not heed the warnings. But today? You know, everything
has been tried and everything has been uncovered and everything is clear.
Reality is simply hurled in our face day after day."

You are completely writing off 15 years in which Israel made much progress
and chose peace and chose the partition of the country and left behind the
ideology of a fortified Masada.

"Our behavior in those years was characterized by two things: belittlement
of the Arabs, and a brute-force approach. I never belittled the Arabs. I did
not belittle their dream and I did not think they could be bought with money
or with a computer for every child. But neither did I advocate brute force.
I did not say that if the Arabs were to shoot at us, we would come down on
them with F-16s. I know there are limits to our power.

"The late Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman [psychologists who collaborated
for many years] did a series of extraordinary experiments, which explained
how people ignore serious events and act irrationally. I think we have
behaved like that since 1993. I say to you with sorrow that I have learned
the rationale of our enemy. There is a large measure of consistency,
internal logic and determination on the Arab side. So I understand the
Arabs. In contrast, to this day I do not understand the Jews. The behavior
here in the past 15 years was not rational, but pseudo-rational. It has
wrapped flagrantly irrational behavior in pseudo-rational argumentation."

If so, why are you again forsaking the Geological Institute in favor of the
Knesset?

"In 1999 I stopped my activity in the public sector because I had become a
public emissary without a public. People's ears were plugged; I was labeled
and I was left without an audience and without the ability to wield
influence. Following the two stages of the eye-opening we went through - in
2000 and in the years after the 'disengagement' - I believe that I will be
able to get people to listen to my analyses and my recommendations again.
Accordingly, I believe that the scale of influence I will achieve now will
be greater and more beneficial than the influence I have in the Geological
Institute."

Restoring trust

What position will you have in the government that Netanyahu will form if
the Likud wins the election? Will you be minister of justice?

"I will accept willingly any position I am entrusted with and any ministry
placed in my care. However, to the best of my knowledge we have other
candidates, each of them excellent, for the justice portfolio. The first and
immense task of the justice minister will be to restore the trust in the
Supreme Court, and especially in the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court
of Justice."

Why is that task so important and urgent?

"It is because the Kadima government and the Kadima party and the head of
Kadima - who is a former justice minister - lent a hand to the minister of
justice, who implemented a campaign of revenge, and of humiliation and
contempt and incitement of Israel's citizens against the court. Wherein lies
the importance of the High Court of Justice? It is the citadel of the
minority and the bastion of the individual. It protects the rights of
minorities and the rights of individuals in the face of governmental
arbitrariness. Prof. Daniel Friedmann [the justice minister] treated the
court with contempt and thereby eroded its status with the public and
weakened its ability to do its job. Tzipi Livni did not admonish him. As is
her wont, she said both this and that, mumbling something into her sleeve
once or twice.

"Accordingly, I say that the government as such and the Kadima leadership as
the leaders of the ruling party bear full responsibility for the justice
minister's ruinous campaign of revenge. Tzipi Livni bears particular
responsibility because she had already been minister of justice, yet did not
have the courage to stand up forcefully and condemn both the Friedmann style
and content. An essential public campaign was fought here, and Livni was not
part of it. Here, too, she did not meet the test of leadership."

Between Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Friedmann, you side with
the former?

I side with the citizens of Israel. Mrs. Beinisch, as president of the
Supreme Court, represents the citizens of Israel. All of us must fear the
tyranny of the majority. The court must be a citadel that deters the
government from acting in a manner that is contrary to the law or to natural
justice. If the court is weak it cannot do that and there is no knowing
where it will end. We have already seen how decisions are made here and how
rights are trampled underfoot.

"Accordingly, I promise you that the Likud-appointed minister of justice
will not behave like Friedmann and the Likud will not behave like Kadima. If
changes are needed, we will make them amid dialogue and coordination with
the court. At bottom, our justice system is excellent and has produced
excellent results. It must not be undermined and it must not be endangered.
Certainly not by means of this kind of contemptuous gung-ho approach.
Certainly not with the government backing a justice minister who reviles the
Supreme Court publicly without being restrained by his colleagues."

Benny Begin, you are a walking contradiction. Do you truly believe in your
ability to reconcile the [IMRA: translation by Haaretz ends here]

IMRA's translations of remainder: liberal humanist in you with the
nationalist who believes so much in the Land of Israel in its entirety?

Begin: When we were young and established our family we had a neighbor in
Romema. When I would see her she would sigh and say: "Oy, Mr. Begin, life
is complicated." So I learned that life is complicated. All agree that
there is no point to having a sovereign Jewish state except in the Land of
Israel. In this part of the world there are many who do not accept Jewish
sovereignty. Therefore the national Jewish desire and the Arab national
desire clashes. Force must be used in this clash. But I believe that the
use of force should be the last resort and should be done to the least
necessary extent.

I also believe that we must live together also with people who don't want
us. We must treat humanly and properly also Israeli citizen who are not
Jews and also those who are not citizens. Is there a contradiction between
my nationalism and my liberalism? There might be. But I try to resolve the
difficulties. I believe that this is a daily effort that I am committed to.
As I learned at an early age, life is truly complicated.

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