Begin Center furious over revelations of former PM’s mental state

The Begin Heritage Center is preparing a complaint demanding a thorough investigation and considering “personal steps” against him.

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May 23, 2018 18:30
2 minute read.
Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin chat at the inaugural session of the 10th Knesset in 1981

Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin chat at the inaugural session of the 10th Knesset in 1981. (photo credit: GPO)

 
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Jerusalem’s Begin Heritage Center is outraged at a longtime Hadassah-University Medical Center neurologist and former head of the ethics bureau of the Israel Medical Association for speaking about Menachem Begin’s alleged psychological problems on a Channel 10 show on Tuesday night.

The show, Hakabarnitim (The Captains), with Raviv Drucker, included an interview with Prof. Avinoam Reches, who as a young doctor and part of a medical team treated Begin when he was prime minister. As a result of the First Lebanon War and the death of his wife, Aliza, he resigned in 1983 from office, saying publicly that he “cannot go on any longer.” There were reports that he suffered from depression as he moved to a rented apartment in Jerusalem’s Yefeh Nof neighborhood, where he lived in isolation until he died in 1992.

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The Begin Heritage Center is preparing a complaint against Reches to the Israel Medical Association and its ethics bureau, demanding a thorough investigation and considering “personal steps” against him.

Center director Herzl Makov said on Wednesday that “Reches crudely violated the concept of medical ethics. Ironically, he was head of the IMA’s ethics bureau. One of the few places where an individual feels safe is with his physician; now it seems that the situation has changed. It is a slippery slope.”

Makov added that Reches “revealed in his words clear private medical information about him, and even tries to analyze on this basis his conduct and functioning as prime minister. The Begin Heritage Center regards this as very serious.

Everyone who heard Prof. Reches’s words last night should be afraid. He also misrepresented himself as Menachem Begin’s ‘personal physician,’” charged Makov.

Reches said in the interview, among other things, that Begin suffered from bipolar disorder (manic depression, with high and low moods.) Asked to comment, Reches said: “The precarious state of health of the late prime minister Menachem Begin is a secret that has been known for decades.

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All that has been said in the TV program has already been published in the various media outlets, and there is no new disclosure.”

The neurologist added that “when there is tension between the right of the public to know the state of health of the national leader, who at the time made fateful decisions, and the leader’s right to privacy – and certainly in a historical perspective of more than 30 years – the public’s right to full disclosure surpasses the right to privacy.”

The current culture is that of “full transparency regarding the state of health of the country’s leaders, and so that is what then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have done. This is also the proper way regarding the state of health of the late Mr. Begin,” concluded Reches, who said the IMA will respond if and when a complaint is received by the ethics bureau.

Likud MK Bennie Begin declined to comment to The Jerusalem Post.

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