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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sharon’

Media Fickleness

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Cleaning out some old files last week, the Monitor was reminded how fickle the media can be in the matter of designating heroes and villains, and how a world leader can go from slug to statesman merely by falling into line with the media’s preconceived notions of right and wrong.

By the time Ariel Sharon slipped into an apparently irreversible coma in January 2006, he had, improbably enough, become a media favorite whose departure from the scene was almost universally characterized as a major blow to hopes for Mideast peace.

Of course, Sharon by then had done a complete ideological about-face, overseeing just months earlier the expulsion of nearly 10,000 Jews from Gaza and promising more concessions to come. As far as the media were concerned, what was not to love?

It was a different story back in the fall of 1998, when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Sharon foreign minister, a move that certified Sharon’s return from the political wilderness. In an editorial remarkable for its name-calling and general nastiness, The New York Times described Sharon as “an implacable foe of the Palestinians”; “reckless”; “leaving destruction in his wake”; and “capable of wrecking the entire peace effort.”

It was as if the Times editorial board had been visited by an apparition of Menachem Begin and spooked into recycling its favored stock phrases about Israel circa 1982. But it was Sharon’s election as prime minister, in January 2001, that inspired a near apocalyptic media reaction.

As the Monitor noted at the time, Reuters headlined a post-election report “Sharon Win Casts Pall Over Mideast Peace Prospects,” as if all was well until the portly old general showed up to spoil the fun.

But the Reuters headline had nothing on this one from London’s left-wing Guardian: “Israel Gives Up On Peace With Sharon Victory” – a headline that served to expand on the theme of warmongering Israel dashing the noble efforts of that munificent elder statesman Yasir Arafat.

The Guardian headline was only the appetizer to the story by Jerusalem correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg, who immediately got to the point: “Israel,” she wrote (in syntax so disjointed it gives the lie to the notion that the Brits hold some sort of patent on proper English), ‘‘yielded to the dark fears unleashed by a Palestinian uprising yesterday, voting by a staggering margin to entrust their future to a man famous for making war, Ariel Sharon.”

Also in The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland compared Sharon to the notorious French xenophobe Jean-Marie Le Pen, and in case his readers didn’t get the allusion to a far-right politician widely reviled for his allegedly racist and sectarian views, Freedland helpfully explained that ‘‘Israel, by a massive landslide, turned to a man who has spent two decades as an international byword for extremism – a global hate figure – and elevated him to the top job…. For anyone who wishes peace for that nation and its neighbors, today is among the darkest of days.’’

Freedland then went on to almost gleefully predict “ostracism” for Israel, “as the world community turns a cold shoulder toward a nation led by a thug…. The country’s link with the Jewish diaspora will weaken, too; Jews in the United States, Britain and elsewhere may want less to do with an Israel that could choose Sharon as its leader.” Finally, no media roundup from the land of tea and crumpets would be complete without a contribution from The Independent’s Robert Fisk, a Palestinian sycophant from way back.

“For once,” Fisk fairly gloated, “the nation that so often points to the bloodstained hands of its Arab enemies will have its very own home-grown blood-splattered leader.” Meanwhile, Newsweek’s Joshua Hammer typified the reaction of the American media to Sharon’s election: “Before he had even formed a government,” Hammer ominously intoned, “Ariel Sharon radicalized both sides of the Arab-Israeli dispute…. Sharon was willing to talk peace, but only on his own terms.’’

And Hammer quoted “a senior Israeli military source” who supposedly observed that “When … cars start exploding in the middle of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, then we’ll see how short [Sharon’s] fuse really is. He’ll be out there … doing whatever it will take to stamp it out. But there is a price to be paid – and the price may be war.”

Never mind that it’s almost impossible to imagine “a senior Israeli military source” saying something even remotely resembling that quote, especially given the mood in Israel at the time – the very mood that made Sharon’s landslide win over Ehud Barak possible.

A better question: Why is it that when a reporter uses anonymous or unattributed quotes, those quotes almost always reflect what one strongly suspects are the reporter’s own views?

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Anatomy Of Collapse (Conclusion)

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

  Orange Public Evades Responsibility


The perfect implementation of the expulsion without significant opposition from the soldiers leaves the IDF Samson shorn and blinded. The IDF loses its moral standing and, as a result, its ability to defeat Israel’s enemies.


If the Orange soldiers had conscientiously objected, they would have saved the IDF and the state. If the Orange civilians had waged a serious struggle on Israel’s highways and in Kfar Maimon and prevented the expulsion, they would have saved the IDF and the state. Even if the expulsion had eventually been carried out, a determined struggle would have saved some of Israel’s moral standing.


But the Orange public fails to carry out the historic role that has been placed on its shoulders. When Israeli society sees that it cannot rely on the Orange public, it goes with the winner – bringing Kadima to power.

                                     Olmert: Convergence And Amona


Sharon makes a dramatically providential exit from politics and Olmert replaces him. He also wants to become the darling of the ruling leftist elite. He also wants to be the preeminent leader regularly praised by the prestigious, leftist Haaretz newspaper. Not coincidentally, he also has some serious corruption skeletons in his closet that need to be safely out of the sights of the Big Brother state prosecution.


Sharon destroyed Gush Katif with sensitivity and determination. Olmert is determined to destroy all the rest. Sharon was “sensitive and determined.” Olmert resolves to be violent and vengeful. Olmert presents the convergence plan and its preview: Amona.


There is no doubt that the maniacal behavior of the riot police at Amona is directed and orchestrated from above. “I admire the police force that carried out its job with determination,” Olmert explains, leaving no doubt as to the source of the directives. The horrific pictures emanating from Amona erode Kadima’s popularity. The destruction of many more Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is temporarily postponed. 

                                                    War Games


Sharon was considered a true leader by both his admirers and detractors. It was impossible to ignore his impressive military record and his determination. The deceptive Olmert needs to reinvent himself in the image of Sharon.


The “opportunity” to become a brave military leader crowned with legitimate authority to implement “painful concessions” is provided by the Hizbullah abduction of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, may God avenge their blood. The arrogant chief of staff of the expulsion whispers in the draft-evading Olmert’s ear that he could defeat Hizbullah from the air. As Olmert explains to the media, the war will “give a tailwind to the convergence.”



After perpetrating its crime against entire Jewish communities, the IDF loses its sense of justice, its fighting spirit, and its ability to triumph. After 33 days, the State of Israel is on its knees. More than 150 soldiers and civilians die on the altar of Olmert’s dream of destroying the settlers. Israel begs for a cease-fire, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni markets the deployment of UN forces into South Lebanon as a great achievement. Two years after the war, Israel admits that the “great achievement” has essentially provided UN sponsorship for even more Hizbullah fighters armed with the latest missiles on Israel’s northern border. Regev and Goldwasser return – in coffins. In exchange, Israel surrenders one more of its “principles” and frees baby-killer Samir Kuntar.

                                Gleeful Days Of The Rule Of Law Gang


Israeli society, still astounded by the Gush Katif triumph of the Sharon and left-wing bully system, enters a moral tailspin that does not allow it to be rid of Olmert. The rule of law replaces the rule of ethics. Legal clauses replace values, the public does not identify a true alternative, and Israel’s public debate takes place strictly in the courts.


Currently, Israel could not have found a more appropriate prime minister than Ehud Olmert. The Israel that has lost the last of its principles and exchanged values for law has a wily and deceptive lawyer for prime minister – completely at home in the legal arena.

                                                 Escape Hatch


Israel has recently suffered three terror attacks in which civilians killed or almost killed the terrorist (Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, Bulldozer 1 and Bulldozer 2). All of these civilians are from the Orange public. The way out of Israel’s terrible situation is through the public that has produced these brave men – men with the right values system, men who run to be first to kill the terrorist and protect their fellow Jews. Their eyes have not been blinded and their locks have not been shorn. The Orange public, expelled and scorned, will save Israel with the proud Jewish leadership it so sorely needs.


To learn more about Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership), and to read their plan for Israel’s future, visit www.jewishisrael.org.


Anatomy Of Collapse (Part I)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

          The Three Weeks of mourning for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that stretch from the 17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av now hold additional tragic memorial days. This year we will commemorate the third anniversary of the expulsion from Gush Katif and Northern Shomron, the “sensitive but determined” pogrom that the Jews perpetrated against their brothers – referred to in Israeli newspeak as the “disengagement.” During this time, we also commemorate the second anniversary of the “War for the Success of the Convergence Plan.” In Israeli newspeak it is called the “Second Lebanon War,” the war that was supposed to have afforded a ‘tail wind’ (Prime Minister Olmert’s words) to the expulsion of the Jews from the rest of Judea and Samaria.


In all the ceremonies held to commemorate the second anniversary of the war, nobody dared tell the truth. And the destruction of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron is still called “disengagement,” even though it has created the strongest engagement ever between Israel and Gaza. Just ask the residents of Ashkelon when the disengagement ended and the engagement began.


For those people who wish to retain their liberty to think, I humbly proffer the following update. It contains a short, simple and uncensored synopsis of the “disengagement” and the “war”:

                                     IDF Flees South Lebanon


Broadcaster Shelly Yechimovitz and the Four Mothers antiwar movement goad then Prime Minister Ehud Barak into a retreat from South Lebanon. Israel’s best interests turn out to be no match for cheap political populism. Barak orders the IDF to flee South Lebanon, abandoning Israel’s allied South Lebanon Army in the process. As a result of the humiliating retreat, the northern third of the State of Israel enters Hizbullah missile range.

                                              The Temple Mount War


Barak’s attempt to give Jerusalem to the Arabs unleashes another round of violence that Israel calls “Intifada 2000.” The Arabs are more to the point, labeling the violence “The Temple Mount War.” Barak loses the premiership. The Israeli public, disgusted with the Oslo process, elects Ariel Sharon – a strong rightist leader – to restore Israel to a path of sanity and national pride. 

                                                “Restraint Is Might”


Just like the right-wing leaders who preceded him, Sharon sheds his rightist rhetoric as soon as he comes to power. Instead, he sings a new, leftist tune: “Restraint is Might.” The slippery slope of nationalism devoid of commitment to Jewish faith consistently leaves nationalist leaders captive to the Oslo disintegration mentality. Sharon’s corrupt dealings accelerate the process. Menachem Begin wanted the legitimacy of the Left and retreated from Sinai. Sharon needs more than legitimacy from the Left. He needs his freedom.


Sharon surprises the public with his total expulsion plan – typical of his bulldozer personality and his need to protect himself from investigations and prison. Unlike Begin, Sharon does not proceed in a democratic manner. He does not put his plan up for public approval, and cynically ignores the decision of his own party opposing the plan.

                                                 Winds Of Fascism


The power elites in Israel enthusiastically adopt the plan to destroy the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron. Unlike the peace treaty with Egypt and its offspring, Oslo, the “disengagement plan” could not be sold to the Israeli public as a new dream. Instead, the government simply explains that it is necessary to carry out the non-violent pogrom because that is what has been decided, and that obedience to the state is above any moral consideration. Disengagement Israel totters dangerously on the brink of fascism.

                                        Failure Of The Settler Leadership


If the Orange public had had rabbinic and political leadership with a Jewish liberty mentality and Jewish values system, the disengagement would have been relatively easy to stop. But at each of the three crucial junctions of the anti-expulsion struggle – conscientious objection, the struggle on Israel’s highways, and the physical presence of thousands in Gush Katif (Kfar Maimon) – there is a collapse. This collapse is first rabbinic, then political. The motivated multitude of people who came to save Gush Katif finds itself perfidiously led to nowhere. The fate of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron is sealed.


From the IDF reports on the disengagement, we learn that the soldiers who refused to take part in the crime were generally those who “were not under the influence of the rabbis.” It is hard to think of a greater desecration of God’s Name than enlisting the Torah to neutralize an effective struggle against the destruction of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel. But that is exactly what happened in Av, 5765.


                                                          (To be continued)


To learn more about Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership), or to order Feiglin’s newest book, “The War of Dreams,” visit http://www.jewishisrael.org/.


British Gas: A Deadly Deal

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008


It looks like the Israeli government is preparing to release approximately 1,000 terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

How many Israelis will die as a result of this deal? Anything over zero is likely to be right. A conservative estimate is about 100.

How many soldiers will be abducted? How many parents will find themselves in the shoes of the Shalit family? A conservative estimate is about 10.

If the implications of the deal are so clear, why is Israel’s government proceeding with the plan?

The murdered and abducted of the future have no present political significance, for it is only the current captives who are shaking government seats. Israel suffers from a complete loss of values and destiny, and the politicians have nothing more to do than ensure their personal political survival. Gilad Shalit is a threat to this survival. Future captives are not.

So what should we do? Abandon Gilad Shalit? Israel should eliminate Hamas’s political leaders one by one until Shalit is freed. We should make it clear that if any harm befalls him, their entire political elite will be eliminated – with no exceptions. If the head of Hamas is directing the negotiations for Shalit’s release, then he is the person responsible for the fact that Shalit is still in captivity. As Shalit’s captor, he deserves to die.

So why doesn’t Israel proceed to eliminate the Hamas leadership?

Most of us remember that Ariel Sharon released 436 terrorists in exchange for Israeli drug dealer Elchanan Tannenbaum. Sharon applied heavy pressure on his government ministers to approve the deal, even though many initially opposed it. Tannenbaum was not a soldier captured in the line of duty. He was a drug dealer who endangered his own life while pursuing illegal money.

Sharon bulldozed the deal through the cabinet, and Tannenbaum was later released from an Israeli prison before completing his full sentence. At that point, I already felt that the only explanation for Sharon’s strange behavior was that Tannenbaum had something on him. I could not explain to myself in any other way how the government could approve such an insane deal. According to reports from the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs Committee, 29 Israeli citizens have been murdered by terrorists released in exchange for this lowlife. The Tannenbaum deal also created motivation to abduct additional soldiers. Clearly, the motivation to kidnap Gilad Shalit was triggered in part by the inordinately high price paid in the Tannenbaum deal and in previous prisoner exchanges

My next question is seemingly unrelated to the abduction of soldiers. Why did Sharon insist on making Ehud Olmert the No. 2 man in his government? Olmert was in 33rd place on the Likud list at the time – a most unlikely candidate for the No. 2 spot. Why did Sharon make him deputy prime minister, the position that eventually afforded him the premiership of the State of Israel?

A 60-page report, titled “The British Gas Government,” based almost entirely on public sources, ties Tannenbaum, Sharon and many other currently serving Israeli leaders to the British Gas Company and to its owner, billionaire Martin Schlaf. It seems that Schlaf buys politicians like houses in a Monopoly game and then uses them for his business needs. Yasir Arafat was one of Schlaf’s first “acquisitions.” Schlaf received a hefty portion of the Jericho casino profits in exchange for doing favors. (Arafat’s private jet was owned by Martin Schlaf.)

The document also identifies the source of the surprising wealth of some very prominent politicians in Israel who have never worked a day in their lives. It explains why Israel did not develop the natural gas field off the Haifa coast, preferring to sign a dubious contract with the British Gas company, which is drilling – you guessed it – off the coast of Gaza.

Yes, it seems that Tannenbaum has some very unpleasant information about a number of Israeli politicians who are snugly in the pocket of Martin Schlaf. Lucky for us, Schlaf is not interested in an Israeli military strike on Gaza that could endanger his business interests off the coast.

I often explain that Israel is in limbo because it has lost its Jewish vision. On the tactical plane, that essential loss of vision finds its expression in nearly incomprehensible levels of personal corruption.

If you have been asking yourself why Israel does not eliminate the terror leaders responsible for Shalit’s abduction (or other questions such as: Why are we stuck with this despicable character for a prime minister? Why can’t Israel beat the Kassams? And why doesn’t Israel’s leadership take effective action?) – Just remember the name Martin Schlaf.

To learn more about Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership), visit http://www.jewishisrael.org/.


How To Cut Off Support – Unintentionally, Of Course

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

(*Names changed)


Coming home to a full answering machine of questions and calls, many insisting that you call back immediately to fill them in during a crisis, is the last thing anyone wants to face. Coming home to an empty answering machine, with no inquiries about yourself or the person in crisis, can be even worse. Left with a feeling that no one cares, the lack of verbal concern from family, neighbors or friends, (even inappropriate concern) makes dealing with the crisis harder. Being totally alone, or just feeling totally alone, decreases your ability to manage in a crisis. That is why the type of support you put in place to help someone in crisis, often needs to be approved by the person you are trying to help. At the very least, the people you are trying to help need to be told what you are doing or planning especially if it will directly affect them. Otherwise your attempt at help could be disastrous.


*Sharon, a well spouse, was in another crisis. She was told by the hospital that her husband was at death’s door, yet again. She had let her family and friends know about this by e-mail. She had been at the hospital for two days without a break. Her husband had stabilized and the doctors told her it was safe for her to go home and shower and rest for a few hours. She drove home and sat in the driveway of her home for a few minutes gearing up for the mountain of calls she knew would be on her answering machine. She promised herself not to deal with them until she did a bit of self-care first. But when Sharon entered her home, the light on her answering machine wasn’t blinking. Thinking perhaps the light was out, she picked up the receiver to see how many messages there were. At first shocked, she quickly began to feel devastated that no one had called. Sharon had never felt so alone and horrible.


But, as Sharon found our later, she was neither alone nor without caring. A friend had received Sharon’s e-mail informing her of the crisis. Wanting to help, this friend decided to ask everyone to whom Sharon had sent the e-mail, not to call Sharon and bombard her with questions and advice. Instead she appointed herself as the contact between everyone and Sharon. She would get them updates from Sharon and send it around by e-mail to everyone. The only problem was that she neglected to tell Sharon of her plan or what she had done. Anticipating that Sharon needed a break when she came home from the hospital, the friend decided to not bother her until the next day. All the while, until her friend told he what she did, Sharon felt alone, isolated and not cared about.

*Shlomi and *Yehuda had been childhood friends. Though quite a distance now separated them, the friendship had survived. Yehuda happened to be visiting when Shlomi was taken into the hospital. When he returned to his home he told all their childhood friends that he’d keep everyone updated on Shlomi’s progress. And so Shlomi heard from no one in his past.


He knew that Yehuda would have told everyone about his hospitalization and wondered why no one cared enough to call or even send a card. Matters became even worse when Yehuda didn’t stay in touch. Yehuda had decided to get all his updates from a friend of Shlomi whom he had met while visiting. The problem was no one told Shlomi this was happening. All Shlomi knew, was that Yehuda had left and maintained no contact. Shlomi was devastated.


In a crisis, everyone wants to lend support. Everyone thinks they are doing what is helpful. But, it is very important not to make decisions for people without their consent. Or, at the very least, inform them of what you are thinking of doing. Both Sharon and Shlomi would have felt much better knowing what was going on. They needed to know that someone was fielding their calls in order to give them some respite. Instead, they were allowed to think that no one called and no one cared − just the opposite of what was really happening. They felt alone in their crisis and were devastated. Knowing that there was support from their concerned friends would have made all the difference.


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Think The Times Is Bad Now?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

In a recent article for FrontPageMag.com, Kenneth Levin (whose most recent contribution to The Jewish Press was the April 20 page-one essay “The Empty Rage of Jewish ‘Progressives’”) took off on Steven Erlanger, the putrid Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times. In the course of his critique, Levin recalled a particularly egregious example of biased reporting by a former Times Jerusalem correspondent named William Orme.

Levin’s mention of Orme triggered memories of when the Times’s coverage of Israel reached an all-time low, thanks in large measure to Orme and wife Deborah Sontag, who happened to be the Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief.

How bad was Orme? On Oct. 1, 2000, he began a front-page story in the Times on the recently launched Palestinian intifada by writing that the violence had been “set off by the defiant visit on Thursday of a right-wing Israeli leader, Ariel Sharon, to the steps of the ancient mosques atop Jerusalem’s Old City.”

The article only got worse as it went on, a textbook example of advocacy journalism. To start with the highly subjective lead, if Orme’s use of “defiant” isn’t a clear-cut instance of editorializing, nothing is. (Orme would use the same word to describe the Sharon visit three days later in another front-page piece.)

Note also how Orme described the site of Sharon’s visit: “ancient mosques atop Jerusalem’s Old City.” Not a word about the Temple Mount or its central place in Judaism.

Orme was just warming up. Describing the tragic shooting of Mohammed al Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy caught in a crossfire between Arab snipers and Israeli soldiers (the circumstances of the incident would be the subject of fierce debate for years afterward), Orme painted a graphic word picture – “The excruciating scene … the boy’s screams … the father’s cries of horror” and dutifully quoted a senior adviser to PA Chairman Yasir Arafat who condemned the “killing in cold blood [of] an innocent child.”

Orme then immediately followed with this loaded line:

“There was little reaction [to the boy’s slaying] from Israelis, many of whom spent the day strolling to synagogues and family gatherings on the Rosh Hashanah holiday….”

By juxtaposing the “excruciating scene” of gunfire and bloodshed with an almost pastoral image of “strolling” Israelis oblivious to the nearby turmoil, Orme managed to convey a startling contrast of horror and holiday – dueling images with Israel, as usual, ending up on the sharp edge of the shiv.

But Orme’s most blatant bit of editorializing appeared toward the end of the piece, in this extraordinary paragraph:

“Israeli army spokesmen said the troops came under fire from the Palestinian police. But television footage of the incident, including the shooting of the 12-year-old boy, and the absence of any serious Israeli casualties, served to reinforce the Palestinians’ belief that the Israelis were responding with disproportionate force.”

Notice Orme’s wholly subjective tone and transparent agreement with Palestinian claims, as in his clever use of the phrase “served to reinforce.” It happened that much of the footage in question could best be characterized as chaotic and confusing (as is usually the case in tense and dangerous situations), and therefore the one thing it could not do was “reinforce” anything other than perhaps some preconceived notions on the part of a New York Times correspondent.

Orme passed the Israel-bashing baton to his wife the next day. In her October 2 article, Deborah Sontag claimed “It is widely believed [in Israel] that the present violence was touched off by Mr. Sharon’s visit on Thursday.”

What, precisely, does “widely believed” mean here? Did Sontag take a poll? Did she speak with the left-wing editors at Haaretz? Did William Orme suggest it over breakfast?

But what could one have expected from Sontag, who upon Sharon’s election as prime minister a few months later described him as an “unreconstructed Zionist” – a curious choice of words, seemingly suggesting that unadulterated Zionism is something enlightened individuals are expected to outgrow, if not disassociate themselves from. You know – enlightened individuals like the ones at The New York Times.

Point of reference: the executive editor of the Times during the heyday of Sontag/Orme’s almost daily journalistic assaults on Israel was Joseph Lelyveld, who in a recent article in the left-wing New York Review of Books essentially justified Jimmy Carter’s application of the term “apartheid” to Israeli policies. The pieces eventually come together, don’t they?

Remembering My Friend Yuval Ne’eman

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

One day in the summer of 1981, when I was still living in Brooklyn, I received a call from Dassie Marcus, a fervent supporter of Israel, the settlement movement, and Gush Emunim.

She informed me that a professor named Yuval Ne’eman was in town to garner support for the newly founded Israeli political party Techiya, whose platform was fighting the Camp David accords and preventing the evacuation of the Jewish city of Yamit in the Sinai.

Dassie suggested I interview Ne’eman for The Jewish Press.

Arrangements were made and I met with the professor. At the time, the pro-Israel community in the U.S. was vocally opposing the Reagan administration’s intent to sell two all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications (AWACS) aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

I asked Ne’eman for his take on the controversy, figuring he’d give me a stock response. Instead he replied, “Indeed, it is a threat to Israel – but surrendering Sinai, from an intelligence point of view, is like giving Egypt 200 AWACS.”

A few weeks later I traveled to Israel and paid a courtesy call on Ne’eman in the Knesset. I also brought him a copy of the paper containing our interview. He was impressed and proposed that I become his spokesman to the foreign press.

I would spend the next six years working very closely with one of the most brilliant and exciting people I’ve ever met. Born in Tel Aviv in 1925, a member of the underground Haganah at the age of 15 and a child prodigy accepted by the renowned Technion in Haifa at 16, by the time I met him he had long been acknowledged as Israel’s leading scientist.

Ne’eman was credited with discovering the basic symmetry of the subatomic particles of matter while working on his doctoral thesis at London’s Imperial College of Science and Technology in 1960-61. In the 1960′s he founded the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, where he later served as president.

In 1969 he won both the Israel Prize for exact sciences and the Einstein Medal for physics. He also played a major role in forging Israel’s defense system and strategies, serving as deputy director of military intelligence and IDF military attaché in England, as a member of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission and as chief scientist in the Defense Ministry.

All those accomplishments were already behind him in the early 1980′s, but he would prove as vital as ever in the years to come – as Israel’s first minister of Science and Development, as founder of the Israel Space Agency, which he chaired until the end of his life, as a member of Knesset, and as the recipient of dozens of awards, prizes and honorary doctorates from major universities.

Political Player

Yuval, as I now took to callinghim, had a keen insight into Israel’s leading political figures. It was he who first enlightened me as to the character of Ariel Sharon – so much so that when Sharon came up with the Gaza disengagement plan more than two decades later, I was not nearly as shocked as so many others seemed to be, particularly those in the national religious camp.

It was shortly after the evacuation of Yamit, which Sharon of course oversaw with an iron hand. I had been in Israel just a few months and was still a greenhorn, unfamiliar with Israeli politics and politicians. All I knew about Sharon was based on the impression, widespread in America, that he was a superhawk who would never dream of giving up an inch of land to Israel’s enemies.

With that image of Sharon implanted in my mind, I was stunned – even traumatized – when he carried out the Yamit evacuation. True, he was following orders – but in light of his past pronouncements I was sure he would resign on principle and leave the task to someone else. So Sharon’s apparent readiness to erase a thriving Jewish city really bothered me. But what I found even more disconcerting was that Yuval seemed totally unsurprised by Sharon’s actions.

While driving with Yuval from the Knesset to Tel Aviv in the aftermath of Yamit, I noted my disappointment with Sharon and asked him, as someone who’d known and worked with Sharon, to explain to me how such a hawk could have done such a thing.

Quietly, even coldly, Yuval gestured out the window and said, “Shmuel, you see those small hilltops over there? Sharon can today build you one like that and tomorrow take it down. Don’t ask questions about Sharon.”

One thing about Yuval that struck me as amusing was that he would always tell me he was not a believer. “I’m an atheist,” he’d insist, and he had a scientific answer for everything. And yet whenever he spoke – in private conversations or in Knesset speeches, with ministers or diplomats or addressing international forums – he would always mention God. He peppered his sentences with statements like “God willing” or “with God’s help” or “only God knows.”

Maybe they were just figures of speech delivered out of habit, but Yuval did have a very strong affinity for Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish people. He was the epitome of the proud Jew, a man whose Jewishness was never far from the surface and whose awareness of Jewish destiny permeated his very being.

This aspect of his personality was displayed vividly to me on a number of occasions, none more memorably than when, in his role as science minister, he was invited to visit West Germany. I usually did not accompany him on his trips abroad when the Knesset was in session, as he needed me, in my position as liaison between the science ministry and the Knesset, to keep my eye on developments in Jerusalem.

But as we were preparing for his trip to Germany he said to me, a visibly religious Jew, “Shmuel, you know, I would like to take you along with me. I want the Germans to see that despite what they tried to do to us, they didn’t succeed.”

As a longtime and key member of Israel’s atomic energy agency and a leader in building Israel’s nuclear reactor, Yuval was privy to state secrets and was a talented practitioner of diplomatic sleight of hand. In 1960 Yuval was appointed director of the nuclear reactor at Nahal Sorek and given the task of dealing with U.S. officials, who routinely attempted to ascertain just what the Israelis were up to.

Whenever an American envoy would arrive in Israel to investigate Israel’s involvement in nuclear and atomic ventures, Yuval would be on hand to host them – to, as he put it, “fardrei them a kop.” Inevitably, the visitors would prepare to return to Washington strongly suspecting that the wool had been pulled over their eyes, and Yuval would wave goodbye to them with a telltale twinkle in his eye.

He may have been Israel’s top scientist and one of the country’s leading defense intellectuals, but Yuval knew how the political/diplomati game was played, and he played it with great relish.

Building Settlements

Although many see Yuval’s greatest contributions to Israel in terms of science, space and technology, I can attest that it was thanks to Yuval that the settlement movement was strengthened to the extent it was in the 1980′s.

After the dismantling of Yamit, Yuval decided it was imperative to bolster the Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to ensure they wouldn’t meet the same fate as Yamit. Gaza, of course, did end up going the way of Yamit, but what Yuval helped bring about in Judea and Samaria made it considerably more difficult for any Israeli government to completely write off the settlement enterprise as part of some future “peace” scheme.

One of the conditions for Techiya’s joining the Begin government in 1982 was that Yuval, in addition to becoming science minister, would head the Ministerial Committee on Settlements. This was the committee that had the authority to build new settlements and strengthen existing ones. It would convene every Sunday after the weekly cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office and decide on various settlements.

Yuval managed to authorize more than 50 settlements during that period. But that’s nothing compared to what he could have done had it not been for the constantly clashing egos of the housing minister, David Levy, and the defense minister, Moshe Arens. New settlements had to be okayed by these two ministers as well, but all too often they were at bitter odds with each other. As a result, petty political concerns trumped the authorization of additional settlements.

That was particularly true with regard to Hebron. Had the committee gotten its act together and approved the new settlements Yuval intended for Hebron – he was ready to settle Hebron en masse – no Israeli government would have been able to even entertain the notion of giving up that ancient Jewish city.

An interesting correspondence I was privy to was one between Yuval and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Yuval knew that Chabad once boasted a prominent community in Hebron and still owned property there. As mentioned above, he was intensely interested in building up the Jewish presence in Hebron, and so he wrote a letter to the Rebbe asking him to call on his chassidim to resettle Hebron. He promised to provide any and every available assistance.

The Rebbe thought highly of Yuval’s approach to military and strategic issues – at one time even writing to Professor Herman Branover that “[Ne'eman's] security positions are identical to mine.” But he rejected Yuval’s request that he send chassidim to settle Hebron. The rebbe feared – presciently, in light of subsequent events in the West Bank and Gaza – that the Israeli government would not give the settlers adequate security and protection against Arab attacks.

“There is no need to elaborate to you, a minister in the government, on how the police and those responsible for the police reacted in the past in that area,” the Rebbe wrote to Yuval.

The Rebbe added that even if the government promised to ensure the safety of the Jews of Hebron and “provide adequate security for all the residents of the area as well as for those will come visit them from close by or far away,” he was certain “that I don’t have to explain to you that these promises are not at all sufficient as experience not too long ago has proven.”

In that letter the Rebbe also castigated the Israeli government for the expulsion of Jews from Yamit, its handling of the war in Lebanon, and its habit of blaming the U.S. for every Israeli misstep.

“I do not want to elaborate on such an alarming and painful matter,” he wrote. “The main thing is that you know what is going on in more detailbut Israel has made Washington a scapegoat for all its foul-ups.”

Uncommon Man With A Common Touch

One of Yuval’s most admirable traits was his ability to relate to all people, from the most eminent scientists, ministers, and professors to the plain man in the street. He was well aware of his status as Israel’s greatest living man of science, a key player in Israel’s defense establishment, and a figure revered by world leaders, yet he never displayed the slightest trace of conceit or superiority. For the longest time he did not have a state car or a chauffeur. He would take the bus to the Knesset like any working man or woman.

Many were the times we met at the central bus station in Tel Aviv to board the 405 Egged bus to Jerusalem. The drivers and passengers who recognized him were amazed that he waited in line to board the bus with everyone else. They would ask in disbelief, “Excuse me, are you Yuval Ne’eman?”

Yuval’s departure from the political arena and his full-time return to the academic world came in 1992 after Yitzhak Shamir lost the premiership to Yitzhak Rabin. Even prior to the election Yuval had become increasingly soured on politics. He had issues with his Techiya colleague Geula Cohen, who was angry at Shamir’s participation in the Madrid peace conference at the end of 1991.

Shamir had his own problems with Cohen, whom he at least indirectly blames for Labor’s 1992 election victory and the Oslo accords that came soon afterward.

Shamir once told me that Cohen “made life miserable with her daily threats of [forcing] new elections, so I decided to call for new elections myself six months before our term was due to expire. My mistake was that I relied on the Russian vote. I was sure that after helping them all to emigrate from Russia and to come to Israel they would vote for me. But they betrayed me.

“Yuval Ne’eman was against her actions and if not for her, my government would have lasted longer and maybe we would never have come to a situation like Oslo.”

At any rate, Labor’s victory and the signing of the disastrous Oslo accords hurt Yuval deeply and from that period on he distanced himself from politics, refusing to be interviewed or to answer any questions on political matters. He immersed himself in his job as director of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies, writing scientific papers and books.

Honors continued coming Yuval’s way in his final years. In 2003 he was awarded the EMET Prize for Arts, Science & Culture, and just last year the Knesset sat in special session on his 80th birthday in recognition of his outstanding achievements and contributions to Israel.

Yuval passed away at age 81 on April 26 of this year. He is survived by his wife, two children, two grandchildren, a sister – and the strong Jewish state he fought to create and to which he devoted his intellect, his energy, his life.

Avraham Shmuel Lewin is the Israel correspondent of The Jewish Press.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/remembering-my-friend-yuval-neeman/2006/07/26/

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