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Sir, - Elliot Jager's important "Breaking Begin" (March 7) was a vivid reminder of an experience I had in the US in July 1979.
I was prime minister Menachem Begin's adviser on external information, and he had sent me to the US to explain his government's settlement program to Jewish and general audiences. The embassy in Washington and consulates in different parts of the US organized the tour, meetings and media interviews.
In New York I had a meeting with the editorial board of Time magazine, whose editor-in-chief was Henry Grunwald. A short while earlier full-page advertisements denouncing Begin's settlement policy had appeared in The New York Times and other papers, over the signatures of about 40 prominent Jewish personalities. These included Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow, composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein, violinist Isaac Stern and, of course, Leonard Fine, a well-known leftist.
Grunwald welcomed me to the meeting and asked whether the prime minister was not concerned that the leaders of the American Jewish community were against his policy. I asked to which leaders of the American Jewish community he referred. He pointed to the New York Times ad and mentioned some of the signatories. I responded by saying that while we highly admired Leonard Bernstein, for example, as a great musician, he was no leader of the American Jewish community. Who elected him? On what platform? What policy did he represent? The same applied to the others. "While we take account of the opposition of our friends in the Jewish community," I said, "the guiding principles that have to influence the government of Israel are the interests of the people of Israel, their security and safety."
The discussion continued, Grunwald rather more subdued. I then told the group that my barber in Jerusalem had a sign on his wall saying that he had an agreement with the bank: "I don't change checks, and they don't cut hair!"
"The same could apply to this discussion," I said. "We don't play the piano or the violin or conduct orchestras, and these great virtuosos cannot lead the nation of Israel as the prime minister and government do, who were elected by the majority of the people of Israel." The talk switched to other topics, and we ended as good friends.
Time reported our discussion, quoting some of the above remarks.
Sir, - In "Knesset votes against Katsav impeachment" (March 8) MK Ruhama Avraham refers to "a law set down in the books, that an MK must be present at half of the discussions in order to vote on the issue" in committee. "It is often not practiced, but on an important issue such as this I felt it was appropriate."
Because the issue was so important Avraham felt it appropriate to obey the law? Whereas "often," Knesset committees violate the law by counting the votes of MKs who were not present for discussions of the issue?
Is this the same Knesset that acted scandalized when an MK was caught pressing the vote button of an absent colleague? MKs should take their own rules seriously, or change them.
MARK L. LEVINSON
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