The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers (2015) - full transcript

Moriah Films' newest feature documentary is The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers. The follow up to The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers, which opened in theatres throughout North America in the fall of 2013, The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers follows the experiences of Ambassador Yehuda Avner during the years he worked for Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin. Based on Ambassador Avner's best-selling book, "The Prime Ministers", the film opens in 1974 as Rabin becomes the country's first native born Israeli Prime Minister. It then examines the negotiations for the first bilateral treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1975, the events surrounding Israel's rescue of hostages in Entebbe in 1976, Rabin's tense relationship between newly elected US President Jimmy Carter, and his subsequent resignation after financial scandal involving his wife Leah. The movie also explores Ambassador Avner's decision to work for Menachem Begin after his surprise election as Prime Minister in 1977. It looks at the drama behind Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, the Camp David Accords, Begin's difficult relationship between President Carter and the tense relations that arose between him and President Reagan over the 1982 Lebanon War. Finally, the film recounts Ambassador Avner's return to the staff of Yitzhak Rabin not long before his assassination in 1995, after he had been elected a second time as Israel's Prime Minister. Starring the voices of Michael Douglas as Yitzhak Rabin and Christoph Waltz as Menachem Begin, The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers is full of emotion and rich history with rare, never before seen photos and film footage.

(MultiCom Jingle)

(relaxed violin, trumpet music)

- I arrived in Jerusalem
November the 14th, 1947.

Just two weeks after I
arrived in the country,

November the 29th, the United
Nations General Assembly

passed the Partition Resolution,

meaning a two state solution,

Jewish State, Arab State.

The Arabs declared that
they were going to invade

the Jewish State and
Jerusalem came under siege.

All the various Jewish militias
of Haganah and Irgun Leumi



merged to formed the
Israel Defense Forces.

Except in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem

was under

so-called internationalized rule

and therefore those militias, the Haganah

under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion

and the Irgun under the
command of Menachem Begin

continued to operate in Jerusalem

and they were not collaborating

and they were very hostile
towards each other.

I had come as a student
on a foreign passport

and I had in our group others
who had foreign passports

and when the truce was called



and the shelling were ended,

the Red Cross agreed to
take us out to Tel Aviv.

And as we approached Tel Aviv,

the first thing that I noticed was lights.

Jerusalem was under blackout.

And not only there were lights,

you could see people in the
streets and in the cafes

lounging and chatting and strolling.

There were cakes and there were cigarettes

and Tel Aviv was a totally normal city

and so we began strolling
through the crowded streets

and suddenly we saw from
the direction of the beach,

we saw this pillar of smoke.

Massive, pluming upwards
and we asked people,

"What is that?"

And they told us that's a burning

ship, it's called the Altalena.

- [Announcer] This ship brings to

the new State of Israel
its most tragic hour.

Beached off Tel Aviv during the night,

it is manned by troops
of the Irgun, irregular

and dissenting faction of
the Jewish fighting forces

who are determined to land
a huge cargo of ammunition.

On shore, Haganah, Israeli regulars,

forbid the landing as an open violation of

the United Nations truce now
in force in all Palestine.

As the Irgunists hit the
beach, open battle breaks out.

- I asked Begin years
later, "What was this?"

And I'm quoting Begin, he said

"I brought this ship with
volunteers to hand over the arms

"to the Israel Defense Forces."

But he wanted a certain percentage

of them to go the Irgun in Jerusalem

which was far more outgunned

than was the Haganah in Jerusalem

and this, Ben-Gurion refused.

Ben-Gurion was absolutely convinced

that Begin was out to do a coup and take

over the government by force and hence,

he ordered the shelling of the Altalena.

Begin got on board the
ship and then suddenly,

(gunshots clacking) shots
were being fired at it.

Mortars were being fired at it

and cannon was being fired at it.

The one who had been given
the order by Ben-Gurion

to shoot the cannon was none
other than Yitzrak Rabin.

Years later I also asked Yitzrak Rabin

what did he recall of the Altalena

and

he said

"I was a young commander in the Palmach."

Which were the commando
troops of the Haganah.

"I popped in the old Haganah

"Headquarters to pick something up

"and there I received
an order over the radio

"from Ben-Gurion

"to shoot at that vessel and destroy it."

I asked Rabin, were you aware
that Begin was on that ship?

And he indicated he was not aware

but what he was very much
aware of and accepted,

the Ben-Gurion understanding

that this was an attempted coup d'etat

by the Irgun under Begin

against the government of
Israel under Ben-Gurion.

This was the brink of civil war

hardly a month after
we'd established a state.

Both had started out as rivals

and much later on in life,

they found this commonality of spirit

in what they both wanted to
do for the best of Israel.

Patriotism

governed their body and soul

over the whole of their lifetime.

Then as a young student in 1948,

observing this epic battle
between these two men,

Yitzhak Rabin and Menachim Begin,

I could not have imagined
that some 20 years later

I would end up in the
Prime Minister's Office

serving them both successively

as a close advisor.

Two men

who began as soldiers

and ended up peacemakers.

(relaxed violin, trumpet music)

I began working for the
government in the 1950s

and in the early 1960s, I was seconded

to the Prime Minister's
Office which was how

I began my career in the
Prime Minister's Office.

I had served in Washington under

Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin in the late 60s

and returned home in the early 1970s

to be appointed Chief of
the Foreign Press Bureau

under Prime Minister Golda Meir.

(relaxed violin music)

The mood in Israel in 1974

was rather somber.

Our casualties, close to 3,000 dead

in the Yom Kippur War.

We were still grieving,
bodies were still being

found and we were going to
funerals and to Shiva houses.

We'd lost all this cockiness

of the post-

1967 Six-Day War stunning victory phase.

We realized

that we were not the conquering
hero of the Middle East.

We won the Yom Kippur war in the end

but at such tremendous cost.

Golda resigns, now we
need a new Prime Minister.

Who is going to replace Golda Meir?

So many of the leadership
had been tarnished

by the Yom Kippur war debacle.

Here was Rabin just returned recently from

Washington untouched by the
war and the stage was set

for a new Prime Minister.

And all eyes were on Yitzhak Rabin,

the first Sabra,

Israel-born Prime Minister in our history.

The very fact that we
used to call him Yitzhak

is emblematic

of the

informalities

on which that Sabra generation was raised.

All his predecessors,
beginning David Ben-Gurion

and then Levi Eshkol, then Golda Meir

all stemmed from Eastern Europe.

If it wasn't the shtetl then it was

the Jewish neighborhood, call it a ghetto,

Warsaw or Kiev,

wherever.

So you had in all Yitzhak
Rabin's predecessors

this very

intense

synchronism

of nationalism,

experience with programs

and the poverty,

the sheer poverty of Eastern
European Jewry at the time.

Yitzhak Rabin knew nothing of all that.

He'd been born into an intensely

Zionist, socialist family.

His mother had once been the Commander

of the Haganah in Hashlosha.

He was born in Jerusalem but
was brought up in Tel Aviv.

His ambition was to
become a water engineer

and

he ended up in an agricultural
school called Kadoorie.

That's where Moshra Dian began

recruiting teenagers for the Palmach.

And so Yitzhak Rabin was reared

within this culture

of patriotism, of socialism,

of responsibility,

of self-sacrifice

and this is a man who rose in the ranks

of the Israel Defense Forces until

he became Chief of Staff and this is a man

who had an extraordinary brain

to analyze situations and reduce them

into

the nitty-gritty of the
essence of a problem

and he saw the nitty-gritty
of the essence of the problem

of post-1967 Six-Day War

of the nurturing of the relations

between the State of Israel
and the United States.

This is why he pressed and eventually

got the job as Ambassador to Washington

and this is what he took with him

into the Prime Minister's Office.

I received a telephone call
soon after, it was from him.

"Yehuda, come."

And he offered me a job
as a personal advisor,

more or less picking up
the same responsibilities

of the type of thing that I was doing at

his side when he was
Ambassador in Washington.

- [News Anchor] Five
men were arrested early

Saturday while trying
to install eavesdropping

equipment at the Democratic
National Committee.

One of them has an office
in the Headquarters

of the Committee for the
Re-Election of the President.

- I shall resign the Presidency
effective at noon tomorrow.

Vice-President Ford will be sworn in as

President at that hour in this office.

- [Gerald] I, Gerald R.
Ford do solemnly swear

that I will faithfully
execute the office of

the President of the United
States, so help me God.

- Congratulations, Mr. President.

- The thinking that is
going on here with the entry

of Gerald Ford into the
White House is that he had

no experience with the
Middle East whatsoever,

in fact the whole area of Foreign Affairs

was something which he
was a bit of an amateur.

He knew that and one of
the first things he did

upon entered the Oval
Office was to pick up

the phone to Henry
Kissinger and say to him,

"Henry, I need you."

And one of his first
priorities was to continue

trying to

facilitate a political process

to advance the prospect of peace.

Kissinger recommended to Gerald Ford,

let's invite Yitzhak Rabin to
Washington to talk about this.

(classical violin music)

A grand party

is held by President Ford

in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Rabin.

Now if you work for the
Israeli Prime Minister,

then you're in and out
of the White House a few

times a year and I'd got
to know the housekeeper

of the White House rather
well, her name was Mary Lou.

Why did I get to know her rather well?

Because I keep kosher and she knew

the essence of my dietary requirements

and she would prepare
for me a vegetarian dish.

Comes the night of the
banquet and we're sitting at

round tables, this was in the
State Dining Room upstairs.

On my right

was Barbara Walters

and on my left was General Brown,

who was the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and

my place card had been misspelled.

Instead of Yehuda Avner,

they'd inscribed rather

Yeduha Avner

and everybody now was being
served roast pheasants,

roast potatoes,

garnished beans except me.

So at one point General
Brown peers at my place card

and says "Yeduha, you're
not eating with us tonight?"

Whereupon a butler
stepped forward and placed

before me an extravaganza of color

that consisted of a base of
lettuce as thick as a Bible.

On top of that was a mound of diced fruit,

on top of that was a
blob of cottage cheese

and on top of that was a
swish of whipped cream.

So the whole thingamajig
stood about a foot high

and compares to everybody
deep brown roasted

pheasant and potatoes, it
glittered like fireworks

and Barbara Walters
began to applaud and this

caught the attention
of the President and he

whispered something into
the Prime Minister's ear

and Rabin whispered something
back into Ford's ear,

whereupon the President
stood up, raised his glass

and called over to me, "Happy
birthday, young fella."

And with that, the whole of the
dining room rose to its feet

and began chanting "Happy
birthday, dear Yeduha."

When I finished

and we went into the
ballroom, I said to Rabin,

"Why on earth did you tell

"the President it was my birthday?"

And he, Rabin who didn't
have much of a sense

of humor at the best
of times, he shot back,

"I should've told him
the truth and tomorrow

"there'll be a headline
in the Israeli newspapers

"that you ate kosher and
I didn't and the religious

"parties will bolt the
Cabinet and I'll have

"a government crisis on
my hands, am I crazy?"

He was then faced what was probably one of

the worst challenges of
his life and that was to

waltz with Mrs. Ford who herself

had been a dancing
teacher in her own youth

and Rabin kept on treading on her toes.

Until Henry Kissinger (chuckles)

sidled up to him

and said

"Yitzhak, leave while you're
still ahead, I'll take over."

To which Rabin said, "If
only for that, I will be

"in Henry Kissinger's debt
for the rest of my life."

(anxious ensemble music)

- We couldn't accept the Egyptian position

that basically wanted what we offered

for the end of the state of war

for something which is much
less that does not contain

any elements of a beginning

of peacemaking

or a real peacemaking process.

- Sometimes the sessions
became rather heated.

Both men, Rabin and
Kissinger, they had a temper.

At one point Henry Kissinger
banged on the table

and said "Yitzhak,

"unless you are ready to make concessions,

"you will be responsible
for the destruction

"of the Third Jewish
Commonwealth," meaning Israel.

To which Rabin, red in the face,

he pointed a finger

at the Secretary of State
of the United States

and said "And Henry don't you forget,

"you will be judged not by American

"history but by Jewish history."

And Kissinger stormed out of the room.

Shortly afterwards, in the
course of a Cabinet meeting,

the Secretary comes in and hands a letter

to Rabin

from President Ford

and the letter was

a virtual threat of imposing
sanctions on Israel.

- [Gerald] Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Secretary Kissinger has reported on the

imminent suspension of his
mission whose objective--

I am writing to convey my deep

disappointment over the position taken by

Israel during the course
of the negotiations.

You know from our conversations--

the importance I have attached
to the success of the efforts

of the United States to
achieve constructive results--

The failure to achieve an
agreement is bound to have

far reaching effects in the
area and on our relations.

I have directed an
immediate reassessment of US

policy in the area, including
our relations with Israel.

You will be informed of our decisions.

- As this was going on,
a call comes through

from Henry Kissinger from
the King David saying

that he wants to meet the
Prime Minister immediately

and Kissinger says "Yitzhak,

"I had nothing to do with that letter."

And Rabin says "Henry,
I don't believe you.

"You initiated that letter,
you even wrote it yourself."

Well,

there was a mushroom cloud in the room.

Henry Kissinger stormed
out, got on his plane and

everything froze in the relations
between the two countries.

In the interim following the
breakdown of negotiations,

President Ford together with
Secretary of State Kissinger

were in Europe and there
they had arranged a whole day

secret meeting in Salzburg
with President Sadat

to see if they could
come up with something to

break the deadlock because
Rabin then would not budge.

This virtual collusion takes place.

In the course of their
discussion, Sadat said

he is agreeable to having
an American presence

in the Sinai and Ford
saying he thinks that

the American people
would be ready to accept

this American role and let us
see how Rabin will respond.

Rabin did not need much persuasion.

In fact he saw advantage in it to engage

the Americans directly
not in the defense of

Israel but in a defense
interest of Israel.

- [Menachem] Mr. Prime
Minister, you cannot expect

our people to believe that
what you signed yesterday

changes the fabric of our
relations with Egypt today.

From March onward when you refused to bow

to the Egyptian dictates
and to American pressure,

Kissinger constantly
stepped up his so-called

reassessment policy and
its grim prophecies,

not one of which materialized until

you finally capitulated and you signed.

- [Yitzhak] Mr. Begin,
my government entered

into this improved
interim agreement because

it holds out the promise
of a new strategic

situation in our relations with Egypt

and a new threshold of
support from America.

This Sinai interim
arrangement is a first step

in the effort towards taking Egypt out

of the alliance of violence against us.

- [Menachem] Many of us
don't see it that way,

Mr. Prime Minister, we see
it as an unacceptable gamble.

- The conversation ended
with a formal handshake

and Begin saying to Rabin,
"You understand that

"I will have to oppose you
in public in the Knesset

"and elsewhere for this
agreement you've signed."

Rabin responded to Begin saying

"One of the things that I've
learned from you, Mr. Begin

"is that the task of the
opposition is to oppose.

"So go ahead and oppose."

(dramatic trumpet tones)

- It was a few moments or
five minutes after takeoff.

We were just settling down

for something like a two
hour flight to Paris.

- After a few seconds we
saw two young men with guns

and people coming from the
First Class to our class.

- Straight after that we heard a voice in

English with a German
accent, not a very heavy

German accent and he said
that he's the new Captain.

- I don't think I'd ever seen Rabin

so taught, tense,

maybe afraid,

maybe afraid ever since the Six-Day War.

- Uganda is very peaceful and Uganda

does not violate any human rights.

- When we heard that the
plane had landed in Uganda,

there was almost a sense
of relief and the reason

is because Idi Amin,
the President of Uganda

had received his military
training in Israel.

As a matter of fact, he was still wearing

on his uniform as President of Uganda

the Parachuter's Rings of the Israel Army.

Although in fact,

its doubtful whether he
ever parachuted at all.

It soon transpired that Idi Amin,

he went into cahoots with the terrorists.

(anxious violin music)

Next thing we learned
was that they had carried

out a selection, separating
the Jews from the

non-Jews and the non-Jews were immediately

freed.

- That was probably our
worst moment because

of course everybody
remembered, I don't know,

if he himself was living at
the time or he read about it,

of all the selections that were done in

the extermination camps
between Jews and non-Jews

and later on between men
and women and then later on,

selections who was going to
die and who was going to live.

(anxious violin, trumpet music)

- I turned to the Chief
of Staff, I asked him

"Do you have even the slightest hope

"that you would be able to carry

"out military action on Thursday?"

And the answer was "No,

"I would not recommend
anything for Thursday,

"at least Thursday."

Therefore on Thursday morning,

I had to wake the Cabinet
to make a decision

and the decision was

to agree to release

certain persons,

a certain number of persons
or to release prisoners

for

the releasing of all the
hostages and I stressed,

all the hostages that were
held at Entebbe Airport.

We continued to prepare
our military option

but we pursued parallelly

these two courses of

solution.

- Rabin then asked me with Menachem Begin,

who was Chairman of
the prestigious Foreign

Affairs and Defense
Committee of the Knesset,

now Rabin fully anticipated
that Begin was going to say

that I, we oppose any
negotiations with the terrorists.

- [Menachem] Mr. Prime
Minister, this is not a partisan

matter for debate between the
coalition and the opposition.

It is a national issue
of the highest order.

We, the opposition shall
support any decision

the government adopts to
save the lives of Jews.

- And here again was an instance of

Rabin's

appreciation of the stature of Begin,

despite their ideological differences.

(anxious trumpet, violin music)

- When I brought the operation

to be approved by the Cabinet, I said

"I would be for it even

"if we'll have to pay

"terms of people who might get killed."

10, 15 or 20 still--

- [Interviewer] Hostages?

- Hostages or--
- Soldiers.

- Soldiers, still I would be for it.

- [Reporter] It was one week
almost to the minute after

they'd taken off on their
ill-fated flight to Paris that the

crew and remaining passengers
landed back on Israeli soil.

It was coincidentally at the exact hour at

which the hijacker's
ultimatum to the Israeli

government was due to
run out and the hostages

had been warned by their
captors that they would die.

Yet here they were and amazingly,

does not seem too strong a word,

back for the most part safe
and unharmed and perhaps

not a little dazed at the
speed and audacity of it all.

Reactions shared by most
Israelis who'd resigned

themselves to having to give
way to the hijacker's demands.

Last night while the Israeli
government was hinting

that negotiations were
bogged down, it was being

executed with an
efficiency and ruthlessness

that left even the Israelis, not unused to

such operations, somewhat breathless.

Yet there was sadness.

Three hostages died in
the gunfight that followed

the Israeli landing at
Entebbe Airport and this

man had gone to Tel Aviv
Airport to greet his

returning son only to be
told that he was dead.

Hoped-for joy became bitter grief.

- [Yehuda] One Officer of
Sayeret Matkal, which is

the most elite commando
unit had also been killed

and that transpired to
be Yonatan Netanyahu,

brother of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Despite that price, this was undoubtedly

one of Israel's finest hours,

indeed one of Yitzhak
Rabin's finest hours.

- I, Jimmy Carter do solemnly swear--

- That I will faithfully execute--

- That I will faithfully execute--

- The Office of President
of the United States.

- The Office of President
of the United States.

- And will to the best of my ability--

- And will to the best of my ability--

- Preserve, protect and defend--

- Preserve, protect and defend--

- The Constitution of the United States.

- The Constitution of the United States.

- So help me God.
- So help me God.

- [Yehuda] We didn't know
very much about Jimmy Carter.

The public statements which he had made as

President-Elect were rather
themselves encouraging.

- Because we are free, we
can never be indifferent

to the fate of freedom elsewhere.

- I asked Yitzhak Rabin
shortly after the election,

"What do you think of
this man, Jimmy Carter?"

Rabin rolled his eyes and he says

"Who knows what he knows
about the Middle East?

"He might have the best of
intentions but in the end,

"he'll create such turmoil
in the region because of

"his ignorance of the underlying
situation within the area."

Following Kissinger,

who was Cyrus Vance,
the Secretary of State?

What were his qualifications to

understand the profundity
of the complexities?

Rabin had

described Kissinger as
the only American he'd met

who really understood the
complexities of the conflict,

which is one of the
reasons why Kissinger along

with Rabin were expounders
of the step by step,

incremental approach towards peace.

He made a comment, "I
will miss Henry Kissinger.

"We had our differences, many an argument.

"But at the end of the day,
we had good cause with him."

(anxious violin, piano music)

When a President invites
a new Prime Minister,

there's usually a banquet.

No, this was a working dinner
of the most senior officials,

members of Congress and
senior media and the like.

It didn't take place in the State

Dining Room but in a smaller one

and all was

going quite smoothly until Tip O'Neill,

a very shrewd

politician,

the Speaker of the House,

probably the third most powerful political

man in the United States said to Rabin,

"Mr. Prime Minister, why
don't you talk to the PLO?

"We, a power like America,
at the end of the day,

"we spoke to our enemies the Vietcong

"and we've come to some kind
of a settlement with them.

"But why don't you do
the same with the PLO?"

And it was pretty clear to us

that it was almost a planted question.

That he was not speaking
really in his own name

but in the name of President Carter

and the answer Rabin gave

was one of the most

eloquent,

passionate,

persuasive

responses I'd ever heard him

spontaneously answer.

- [Yitzhak] Mr. O'Neill,
let me ask you in return,

did the Vietcong refuse to recognize

the existence of the United States?

What basis is there for
negotiations with the PLO,

whose avowed raison d'etre
is to destroy the State

of Israel and replace it
with a Palestinian State?

- A couple of days later
Carter made a speech

and in that speech he
used the turn of phrase

of a Palestinian homeland.

I remember we flew back

from Washington anxious

what steps we should take to retain

our good relations with America in light

of clear evidence on the part of the

new Administration that
they wanted to bring the PLO

into a Geneva Conference process.

And it was the usual
practice when we flew home,

we would relax, preparing
for a nightlong flight

of some 10, 11 hours

and we would sit around and schmooze.

On this occasion he was unusually reticent

with us, his three, four quote-unquote

intimates.

He seemed to be sunken within himself.

(anxious violin, piano tones)

Our Attorney General decided that this has

to be thoroughly
investigated and in the end

he decided that Leah
Rabin had to stand trial.

Then we see

a Rabin

of high moral principle.

Rabin did two things, number one,

he insisted that he too be put on trial

since the account was in both their names

but the Attorney General refused.

The other thing was that
he stepped out of office.

Minister of Defense
Shimon Peres became acting

Prime Minister and the
elections were approaching.

I went to Rabin, I asked
him "Do you think that

"Peres is really going to
win the next election?"

And Rabin said "For sure," why?

Because his opponent was Menachem Begin.

Menachem Begin had just
had a massive heart attack.

He couldn't take any part at
all in the election campaign

and we're talking about an
election that was weeks away.

He thanked me for the work
I'd done for him and then he

did something which is totally
uncharacteristic of Rabin.

He got up and he walked around the table

and he gave me a hug.

I couldn't believe it and this is how

I exited the Prime Minister's room,

with the feeling of this

Rabin hug

around me.

(applause)
(chanting)

This was not just an election victory,

this was the first time
in the history of Israel

there was an actual
election victory that was

bringing about a change of Administration.

One such fellow, I asked him,
"Why did you vote for Begin,

"an Ashkenazi Jew as much as Shimon Peres?

This guy began saying that
we voted for Begin because

he's a proud Jew, he's not
afraid to say the word God.

We're talking here about a
demographic element of society

which whether they were
totally observant or not,

were very, very traditional
and were passionate believers.

Menachem Begin had difficulty
getting to the podium

because the crush of people on every side

wanted to shake his hand
or just to touch him

and he mounted the
platform and the whole went

"Wow, Begin, Begin, Begin."

(chanting)

He put a yarmulke on
his head and pronounced

the famous festival
blessing of Shehecheyanu,

of thanking the Almighty for having

enabled him to reach this day

and then that evening ended
with a resounding Hatikvah.

The world press was stunned.

This was also fueled by the reaction of

the defeated Labor Party here and so you

had headlines which
called Begin a warmonger,

the headlines that the terrorists

have taken over the country.

You had headlines that all hope
for peace are now destroyed

by the establishment of
this new Likud government.

Universally the response was negative

to Begin's entrance into office.

Not least in Washington
DC where Jimmy Carter

entered into his diary words of shock.

There was Rabin who
turned up in classic Rabin

style with a short sleeve
shirt, open collar.

There were three or four of us with Rabin.

And let me see, an old Peugeot car

straddling the sidewalk,

three or four kilometers an hour

at two minutes to nine
o'clock and Rabin saying

"That's Begin in that car."

Rabin briefly, almost
perfunctorily introduced us to him.

Begin shook us warmly by the hand.

Then we moved to the adjoining door into

the conference room and there this little

ceremonial took place of
the exchange of the guard.

(toast in foreign language)

At the end of the ceremonial,
Rabin took his leave

and we, the Rabinites,

feeling anything I would say from

morose

to depression in the knowledge that

we were about to leave this protected

cloister the inner sanctum back to

our various pursuits.

In my instance back to the Foreign Office,

fully anticipating to be posted to

some Third World country.

What happens when you leave a room

in which you had worked for many years?

You straighten the pens and pencils

and the ruler on your desk and then you

get up and go through the door, open it,

take one last look but as I
was doing that, the phone rang

and it was the secretary saying that

the Prime Minister wants to see me.

He was immersed in some paperwork.

His face

was very gaunt and pale.

I extended my hand,

he took it half-rising and then sitting

and my saying "Mr. Prime Minister,

"as a citizen, I wish you all success."

And he said "Sit down, sit down."

Whenever Begin spoke,

it would come out like a pronouncement

as if it was an official declaration.

- [Menachem] I have this day received an

important communication from the President

of the United States of
America, Mr. Jimmy Carter

and Knesset member
Rabin suggests I show it

to you with a view to preparing a reply.

He tells me you have some
experience in these matters.

- So I started to read this
letter from Jimmy Carter.

It was a letter inviting
him to visit Washington.

I even remember the date, in
the week of July the 19th,

1977, "when we shall
have the opportunity to

"reach a partnership
of principle between us

"leading to a just and lasting
peace in the Middle East."

So I immediately pounced
on this turn of phrase.

I indicate, explain that I've never

seen this term partnership
of principle before.

In other words, you may not have

a partnership of principle now.

He said "That is my reading of it too."

And he said "Let's meet at
four o'clock this afternoon

"and you shall polish

"my Polish English.

"You will Shakespearize it for me."

"What?" said I.

He said "You will be my Shakespeare."

And he still hadn't said
I'm offering you a job.

Then immediately he asked me what exactly

were my responsibilities
under his predecessors

and then he asked me
to continue and I said

"But Mr. Prime Minister, I'm
not a member of your party."

He said "I never asked you."

And then I said to him

"Can you give me a few
minutes to think this over?"

And he said "You'd like to ask

"Knesset member Rabin, would you not?"

I said "Yes, I think so."

And I ran back to my office,
I picked up the phone

and said "Yitzhak, he's
offering me a job."

And Rabin said "You ought to take it.

"He is an honest man, he is a patriot

"and he's your kind of Jew."

I knew of no Prime Minister
who so intensely prepared

himself for a visit to
Washington as Menachem Begin.

He read every single speech

that Jimmy Carter had ever pronounced,

particular on matters
dealing with the Middle East.

He read and reread the
minutes of the last meeting

that Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin had had with Carter,

which was a very caustic meeting.

He was determined to repair

the relations between the two countries.

He said "I believe Jimmy Carter

"to be basically a decent man.

"He's a religious man, so am I.

"I think he sees that he has a mission

"in the Middle East,
a peacemaking mission.

"But I also think that he is ignorant of

"the intricate complexities
of the Middle East conflict.

"So somehow or other I
have to get through to him

"what these complexities are."

Unlike his predecessor Rabin,

who had adopted a step by
step process towards peace,

Begin said by doing step by step,

you are squandering your assets

and you're not getting peace in return.

"I want to make a comprehensive
peace with all our

"neighbors and I'm ready to
find territorial compromises."

We were talking here basically about

the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.

He didn't say the West Bank
and he didn't say Gaza.

For the Palestinians, autonomy,

he even went further, he
called it full autonomy.

And so Begin invested
a lot of time in trying

to find the formula and
the language of which

he would try to persuade this peacemaker.

(military style trumpet music)

While over the Atlantic,

I dozed off and

I woke up to see the extraordinary sight

of Menachem Begin on his knees

trying to put shoes on Mrs. Begin.

He got up with a sigh
and I remember him saying

"Oh, marriage is not a
word, it's a sentence."

I said "How did you meet?"

And he said that they met in Poland

in the house of a mutual
friend and there were

two twin sisters, 17 years
old and though they were

identical twins, "I knew
immediately that this one,"

he was pointing to Mrs.
Begin, "this one was for me.

"I was going to marry her.

"So I sent her a letter
that life with me is going

"to be full of hardship
and there may even be jail.

"It may even be dangerous."

And she wrote back,

"I'm not afraid of hardship or danger."

And I remember him then cuddling his hand

on hers, which was on
the armrest and saying

"We toast each other every day since."

Jimmy Carter gave him a grand reception.

He gave him a bugle-sounding reception

on the South Lawn of the White House

with the Guard of Honor, guns saluting.

Clearly somebody'd put a lot of thought

on how to welcome this
Prime Minister of Israel.

- We have with us a very
distinguished visitor,

Prime Minister Begin and his wife Aliza.

He's a man who has demonstrated

a willingness to suffer for principle.

A man who has shown

superlative personal courage

in the face of trial, challenge,

disappointment

but who has ultimately prevailed.

- [Yehuda] Every single
sentence was utter perfection

tailored in order I would say
to flatter Menachem Begin.

- Thank you very much and welcome, sir.

- And Begin I could see was

astonished, pleased,

delighted

by this tremendous
surprise of a reception.

When the President
cupped Begin's shoulder,

I distinctly heard him say "Come,

"let us begin our talks."

The initial pleasantries
over, the President said "The

"Middle East peacemaking process
is very high on my agenda.

"I've already spoken to
various Arab leaders.

"I seek a convening of a
Geneva Peace Conference.

"It will be based upon

"Security Council Resolution 242."

Which calls for a comprehensive peace.

Then he said something
which made Begin sit up.

He said "I want to go

"beyond Resolution 242,

"which speaks only about
the end of belligerency.

"I want to speak about
actual peace treaties."

Now no American President
had ever said that before,

that the purpose of the talks
will be actual peace treaties.

That's exactly what Begin wanted to hear

and so there was a meeting of minds on

the concept of comprehensive peace.

There was no apparent disagreement

on the convening of the
Geneva Peace Conference,

even as they were meeting
of minds on the macro.

When it came to the micro,
Jimmy Carter made it plain

that the end product of
the peace process has

to include what he called
a Palestinian homeland

and that Israel would, I think
he used the word obviously,

have to withdraw to their old 1967 lines.

Begin

listened.

Clearly he didn't want to get into any

substantive argument
with him at that moment,

at which point Jimmy Carter says

"Is there anything else
you would like to add?"

Upon which he said "Mr. President,

"I would like to show you a map."

- [Menachem] I call it the INSM,

the Israel National Security Map.

You see these mountains, Mr. President?

The Syrians and the Lebanese sat on

top of them and we were at the bottom.

They shelled our towns and
villages in that valley

from up on top of these
mountains day and night.

Haifa as you know Mr. President
is our major port city.

The Armistice Line was only 20 miles away.

Here in the Tel Aviv
area live a million Jews

12 miles from that
indefensible Armistice Line.

This coastal plain is
so narrow in parts that

a surprise thrust by a
column of tanks could

cut the country in two
in a matter of minutes.

There's no going back to those 1967 lines.

Abba Eban called them the Auschwitz Lines.

No nation can live on borrowed time.

Mr. President, the
distinction between Jewish

national security in the
past and Jewish national

security in the present
is that in the present,

our men can defend their
women and children.

In the past in the Holocaust,
they had to deliver them.

They had to deliver them
to their executioners.

Mr. President, I take an
oath before you in the name

of the Jewish people, this
will never, ever happen again.

- And then he broke down.

Tears welled up in his
eyes and you could see him

standing there trying to
get a grip on himself.

God knows

what horrific scenes he was
seeing in his mind's eye

of his whole family

that was executed in the Holocaust.

And suddenly there was a hush

that settled down on the Cabinet Room

and he stood there,

dignified, weeping,

quietly.

Jimmy Carter suggested maybe that

they break up for an intermission.

Begin said "No, no, let us carry on."

Then the Head of the
National Security Council,

Zbigniew Brzezinski
looked up and said "So,

"are you telling us that
you view the settlements

"in the West Bank as a
matter of national security?"

To which Begin said "Yes
sir, I certainly am."

And the President said
"Mr. Prime Minister,

"if this be your position
and that you refuse

"to entertain our matter of withdrawal

"from the West Bank to the '67 lines,

"then you are ruining the
very prospects for peace."

And it was then that the
Prime Minister said to him

in a declarative, even theatrical fashion,

"Mr. President, I wish to present to you

"Israel's proposal for
the making of peace."

And he handed over this dossier

which was called The Framework for

the Making of Peace in the Middle East.

And discussion began on the content,

which included the Geneva
Conference, direct negotiations

between Israel and each
individual Arab State.

Then a discussion began about Jerusalem.

His insistence that
Jerusalem was the eternal,

undivided capital

of Israel, indeed of the Jewish people

and Brzezinski was saying that

"With these conditions, you
are making peace impossible."

To which Begin said

"Israel does not have
conditions, only positions."

To which there was
almost a collective sigh

of relief on the other side of the table.

This changed the whole
tone of that meeting,

which ended with a communique
from the White House

describing the meeting
as having been candid,

fruitful and positive

and all the various cliches

that you use in such communiques.

(tepid flute music)

And what were these feelers?

We flew to Bucharest

to meet with Nicolas Ceausescu,

the Stalinist dictator of Romania

in the knowledge that Ceausescu had

a close relationship with President Sadat.

On to Iran to meet with the Shah,

who also was aware

of this attempt on
Begin's part and the Shah

was willing to help to
reach out to the Egyptians.

Jimmy Carter had no idea what was going on

behind in these meetings,
these secret meetings.

The moment he heard about it,

he sent his Secretary of
State Cyrus Vance over to

Jerusalem, to Cairo to find
out what on earth was going on.

Clearly Sadat

was responding quietly to these feelers.

In diplomacy,

there are subtleties that require

you to listen not only with
your ear but with your inner ear

and such a subtlety

was

suddenly floated when
one day, Sadat's speaking

to his National Assembly
in which he expressed

a sentence that "I am
ready to go to the end

"of the world and even to the Knesset

"if it will save a single
one of my children."

And immediately Begin called in Ambassador

Samuel Lewis and told him
to deliver a message by

his government to Egypt
that President Sadat would

be a welcome and honored
guest when he wished to come

and then Sam Lewis came and
said that President Sadat

wishes to receive an official invitation

and with that official invitation,

Begin also made a speech
addressing the Egyptian

people directly and that speech
was translated into Arabic

and was broadcast on the Arabic station.

I was dispatched to London

to prepare for an impending
visit to London of

the Prime Minister when suddenly
on the Thursday afternoon,

I get a phone call,
"Come home immediately.

"Sadat is arriving in Jerusalem

"on this Saturday night."

The whole of Ben Gurion was flag-bedecked.

Israeli flags and Egyptian flags.

Then you hear the roar of the engine

as the plane lands

and

taxis and on its white fuselage

are emblazoned the words

"Arab Republic of Egypt."

Along that red carpet
were many, many people

who'd fought in the '48 war

and the '56 war

and the '67 war

and the Yom Kippur War.

Suddenly the door opened
and there he stood,

Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat

at the door, waving.

The man who had tried by every means

to destroy us.

By war,

by boycott,

by blockade.

There he stood,

waving

at the people of Israel.

I found myself almost squeezed between

Golda Meir on my left and
Yitzhak Rabin on my right.

Then,

he came face to face with Golda Meir

and they looked at each other deeply

and he took Golda's hand in his

and Golda said to him,

"I've been waiting for
you for a long time."

Then there was a pause and he said

"Well now I am here."

And she said "Welcome."

And then I overheard Golda
whisper into Rabin's ear,

"Why didn't he come before
the Yom Kippur War?"

And "It would've saved so many

"lives of our boys and of his."

I had been sent ahead
to the King David Hotel

to make sure that everything
there was in order.

Into the Hotel they came

and up to the Presidential
Suite of the Hotel.

Prime Minister Begin then
asked President Sadat,

"Mr. President, why have you come?"

To which he allegedly answered

"I have come because we have been

"fighting a historic war
of attrition between us

"for 30 years and the cost is too high.

"Let us make peace."

The next day,

Sunday, President Sadat

prayed at the Al-Aqsa
Mosque on the Temple Mount

and then he paid his respects

at the Yad Vashem,

the Holocaust Memorial of the six million

slaughtered during World War Two

and then on to the Knesset.

(dramatic trumpet music)

(applause)

The Knesset of course was packed

and the President of
Egypt then rose to speak.

He opened with the words
"Abeer salam," greetings.

(speaking foreign language)

And then he proceeded
to deliver the speech

and what it actually said was the classic,

most extreme Arab position.

Not a single inch of Arab soil
will be up for negotiation.

The Palestinian State needs
Jerusalem to be returned.

Everything had to be restored to

what it was in return for peace

and then it was Begin's
turn to speak and he said

"Mr. President, welcome to
Jerusalem, capital of Israel.

"You knew all our
positions before you came.

"I never made any secrets of them."

I know that Menachem Begin
wanted to put on a grand display

of the democracy of Israel
in the most vivid manner.

Hence in the official
program, meetings between

Sadat and the leaders of
all the major parties,

not least the leader of the
opposition, the Labor Party.

This was Golda, this was
Peres, this was Rabin.

The whole galaxy of the Labor party.

It was an almost jolly meeting.

- Let us at least conclude one thing.

The beginning that you
have made with such courage

and with such hope for peace,
let us decide one thing.

It must go on face to face

between us and between you so that

even an old lady like I am
will live to see the day...

(laughs)

You always called me an
old lady, Mr. President.

(laughs)

- She's not as old as us.

- We will live to see the day,

whoever signs on the part of Israel,

I want to live to see that day

of peace between you and us,

of peace between all our neighbors
and us and Mr. President,

as a grandmother to a grandfather...

(laughs)

may I give you a little present
for your new granddaughter

and thank you for your present
that you have given me.

(applause)

- [Yehuda] And then in
the King David Hotel,

a dinner took place.

Most members of the Cabinet,
el-Sadat with his senior aids

and then came time to depart
back to Ben Gurion Airport,

a repetition of the ceremonial.

A final wave as he stood there
by the door of the aircraft,

then off he went.

(chanting)

That very evening, we had run back to see

on the television Sadat's arrival in Cairo

and he was received by

hordes and hordes of cheering Egyptians.

It was amazing.

Begin called me over
and said "I want to send

"a message to President
Carter about the visit."

- [Menachem] Dear Mr. President,

last night President Sadat and
I sat until after midnight.

We are going to avert another
war in the Middle East

and we made practical arrangements
to achieve that quest.

The exchanges were very confidential,

very far-reaching from his point of view.

There are differences of opinion,

we're going to discuss them.

(helicopter whirring)

- Imagine the topple from
the euphoria of November

into the frustrations

of December,

January,

February.

We're getting nowhere

and soon enough the Egyptian press,

most notably the major newspaper Al-Ahram,

a controlled government newspaper,

called Begin

a shilok.

It got Begin fuming

but Begin with this Jewish wit of his,

he started to call himself shilok.

On the occasion I scribbled
a note to the Prime Minister,

I attached to it a draft of
a letter I'd Shakespearized

to which Begin replied
(speaking foreign language),

"To Shakespeare" and approving the letter.

And as the weeks went by,

Jimmy Carter began more and more

to put the blame and the responsibility

for the lack of progress
on Menachem Begin.

(relaxed violin, flute music)

There were many people in
the country who advised Begin

to think twice before
going to Camp David because

if there was to be failure,

then Israel's going to be blamed

because by this time we
knew that Jimmy Carter

simply preferred Anwar
Sadat to Menachem Begin.

There were more crises in Camp David

than there were signs of progress.

The two men hardly met each
other during Camp David.

Menachem Begin was a legalist,
Sadat was a generalist.

Menachem Begin would insist on crossing

every T and dotting every I.

Anwar Sadat would leave that to others.

He was a man of vision, Carter liked that.

From the point of view of the mechanics of

the whole process,
Israel was to be the one

who had to surrender up territory,

had to give up assets.

What did Sadat have to do?

If you look at the Camp David Accords,

they were not a treaty.

These are a set of
principles, basically two.

The first one is autonomy
for the Palestinians

over a period of five years
in the course of which

their final status would be negotiated.

The second principle was
a Peace Treaty with Egypt,

namely that X number of months were now

going to be given for the two parties to

hammer out between them
an actual Peace Treaty.

At the very last minute,

there was this side letter that Sadat

wanted Begin to sign that
had to do with Jerusalem,

namely that Israel would agree to

put Jerusalem on the negotiating agenda.

Begin said under no circumstances.

What does Jerusalem have
to do with President Sadat?

Jerusalem is the united, eternal capital

of the Jewish people
and the State of Israel.

I think Carter must have been
in some kind of a shock but

the fact is you see no mention
of Jerusalem in Camp David,

nor do you find it in the Peace Agreement.

(ominous violin, trumpet music)

(applause)

- [Reporter] The stalemate
was broken by President

Carter himself, the personal
visit showed how he--

(relaxed violin, flute music)

- Today we celebrate a victory,

not of a bloody military campaign

but of an inspiring

peace campaign.

- Let there be no more wars or bloodshed

between Arabs and Israel.
(applause)

- Now it is time for all
of us to show civil courage

in order to proclaim to
our peoples and to others

no more war, no more bloodshed,

no more bereavement.

Peace unto you,

shalom,

salaam

forever.

(applause)

(car horns honking)

- I, Ronald Reagan do solemnly
swear that I will faithfully

execute the Office of
President of the united States.

- Samuel Lewis told me that Begin over

and over again had warned the Americans

that Israel will not tolerate

a nuclear Iraq.

When the Administration

changed over from

the Jimmy Carter Administration

to now the Reagan Administration,

Sam Lewis told me that he'd made

a special point in making sure

that the coordinating teams

would carry this information
to the appropriate authorities

and it somehow got lost in the process.

(dramatic trumpet, violin music)

(beeping)

- The United States government
condemns the reported

Israeli airstrike on the
Iraq nuclear facility,

the unprecedented character
of which cannot but

seriously add to the already
tense situation in the area.

- The United States decided
to suspend the delivery of

aircraft, fighter aircraft
because by the law of Congress,

you were not allowed to

employ American weaponry

except for a matter of self-defense.

Begin was hammering away
that this was what we'd done,

the ultimate act of self-defense

and Reagan also,

he wanted to put the whole
thing behind us somehow.

- This did appear to be a
violation of the law regarding

American weapons that were
sold for defensive purposes.

On the other hand I do think
that one has to recognize

that Israel had reason
for concern in view of

the past history of Iraq
which has never signed

a ceasefire or recognized
Israel as a nation.

- Begin had every good reason from all

of what he was hearing
that in Ronald Reagan,

there would be a good friend of Israel

in contrast to his
predecessor, Jimmy Carter.

He knew the man was
well-disposed from the outset

and so he had very, very high hopes.

(patriotic trumpet music)

(aircraft humming)

(gunfire clacking)

(crowds screaming)

(tense violin music)

Begin asked me to contact
our Ambassador to Cairo

to inform the Egyptian
authorities that he,

Begin wished to attend the State Funeral

as the Head of an Israeli Delegation.

This was to cause a momentous
headache for the Egyptian

authorities, number one,
many an Arab leader would be

present at the State Funeral
and the last thing they

would want to see would be
the Prime Minister of Israel.

And number two was how to handle security

of the Israeli Delegation, particularly

because the funeral was
to be held on the Shabbat

and it took tremendous
courage on the part of

the Prime Minister and
his senior colleagues,

walking in order to
observe the Sabbath Day,

walking in the heat some miles

to get to the very start
on the funeral procession.

Begin was mourning, he
was genuinely in grief

that he had lost not only
a political peace partner,

he'd lost a man who had
become a cherished friend

not only one on one

but their respective wives and families.

I spent the rest of the Shabbat there,

flew home on the Saturday night.

Obviously the press was waiting.

The question that was being pounded was

will the peace process hold?

- I am convinced that a
peace process will continue.

President-Elect Mubarak said
so yesterday to my colleagues,

the Foreign Minister, Defense Minister

and Interior Minister and I
myself had a long talk with him.

Part of it, we

led privately our chat

and we touched mainly on the problem of

the continuation of the peace process

and there was no doubt in the minds of

either of us that this
is going to be the fact

and so therefore we don't have any doubt

that the peace process will continue.

(anxious violin, trumpet music)

- I visited Northern Israel,

Galilee a few times during this period.

It was a situation in which the population

of Galilee had become hostage to the

unprovoked attacks of Yasser Arafat's PLO.

So that hundreds of thousands
of people had to spend

hour after hour, night after
night in their shelters

and normal life was almost
coming to a standstill.

And I remember Ariel Sharon
saying "Mr. Prime Minister,

"if this kind of escalation continues,

"then the prospect of war is very near."

(car horns honking)

(sirens blaring)

That was the last straw
and Begin in his own mind

had made the decision the
time has come to clear

out the nests of the PLO
from Southern Lebanon

and push them back beyond range.

Ariel Sharon informed him that

to keep them beyond range,

we have to establish a line 40

kilometers in Lebanon from our border.

(tank shell booms)

(gunfire clacking)

The complications that
had resulted in the course

of the advance into Lebanon
with the involvement of Syria

were such that we now

had put Beirut under siege.

There was no intention of
that in the first place.

There were some in opposition
led by Shimon Peres

and even a few within the Israeli Cabinet,

they were not at all sure

that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon

had not broader ambitions
in the first place,

beyond the 40 kilometer
line that Begin had set.

(tank shell booms)

(gunfire clacking)
(car horns honking)

(speaking in foreign language)

Bachir Gemayel was
negotiating very intensely

with Begin for an actual Peace Treaty

and then on the eve of his installation,

he was assassinated.

On the eve of Rosh
Hashanah, September 16th,

Christian militias entered
two Palestinian refugee camps,

one called Sabra and
the other called Shatila

and they went on to commit
a horrendous massacre.

This was

in response to the
assassination of Bachir Gemayel.

(chanting in foreign language)

Sabra and Shatila became a catalyst of all

the frustrations of that war in Lebanon.

This was the very first
time in Israeli society

that a war was being waged
that was not consensual.

The more the casualties rose,

the more opposition to the war
within rank and file mounted.

(shouting in foreign language)

There were one or two
within Israel's Cabinet

who were also interested
to bring down Ariel Sharon,

that he deliberately misled Begin.

The confrontational situation brought

about a Judicial Commission of Inquiry.

The singular finding was
that Defense Minister

Ariel Sharon was found to be

indirectly responsible for

the massacre of Sabra and Shatila.

The Commission called upon him to resign

from his position as Defense Minister.

He was later to accuse Begin
of abandoning him in the field

because the Cabinet voted unanimously

that he should resign
and Begin did not seek

to reverse that decision.

It must have been about a
month later that one morning

I walk into the Prime
Minister's room and there

I see him sitting wearily behind his desk,

he'd lost weight and

he was also very anxious about his wife,

Eliza

who was in and out of the hospital.

You could see the anxiety
lines on his features.

He said "I must go and
meet the President again.

"I must clear up these misunderstandings.

"I must speak to my fellow Jews.

"I have to convince
them of our innocence."

(somber violin, piano music)

The tears rolled down
Begin's cheeks and he

began to sway back and
forth, back and forth and

to repeat over and over again
(speaking foreign language),

"Why did I leave her,
why did I leave her?"

He was inconsolable.

(somber violin music)

He was no longer the same man.

He was totally enclosed within himself,

hardly communicated.

He saw nobody except
personal staff members.

He had difficultly mounting
the steps to the Knesset.

His voice became ever more
slurred, ever more husky.

He began to fumble with his pages.

He began to repeat himself.

It was pitiful to behold.

Even the opposition sat there in silence

and in respect

and in sadness

of what had happened
to this giant of a man.

The idea of

my going to London,

it had been mulled over for quite awhile.

So,

in June 1983,

I was summoned to the
Prime Minister's room

and he said to me in
the most formal fashion,

"Yehuda, the government today has approved

"your appointment as the next Ambassador

"of Israel to the United Kingdom."

(relaxed violin, flute music)

He told the Cabinet, "I
simply cannot go on."

The Cabinet members tried to persuade him

but he was adamant, he was stepping down.

There was some degree of mystery

as to what was the final straw

that broke Begin's will

because after he resigned,

he gave no official reason,
he issued no communique,

he delivered no address to the nation.

He simply took up residence in Jerusalem

not far from where his son Benny lived,

closed the door and became a recluse,

he became a man of silence for nine years.

For nine years he did not

make a single statement in public.

The last communication

I had with Begin was on the occasion

of his birthday and I sent him a note

and he sent me a letter back

and the letter

was in a way nostalgic,

reminding me of the good old days

when he would call me Shakespeare.

(anxious ensemble music)

Our Embassies had received
immediate instructions

to inform the heads of government

that this was to be, at the
request of the deceased,

a simple Jewish funeral.

No Guards of Honor, no gun
salutes, not even eulogies.

What was going through my mind?

What was going through my mind was

not merely my first encounter
with Begin as Prime Minister

but I was on a time machine

that took me back to the days of my youth.

I was mainstream, I'm a Zionist

of the Ben-Gurion school,

so when I first came to Israel,

I had a certain prejudice
towards these separatists,

as we thought of them, the
dissidents from the mainstream.

The man who first taught
me to respect what

Begin stood for ironically
was Yitzhak Rabin.

(chanting)

(cheering)
(applause)

- [Announcer] Ladies and gentlemen,

Mr. Arafat, Chairman of
the Executive Council

of the Palestinian
Commemoration Organization,

His Excellency Yitzhak Rabin,
Prime Minister of Israel,

the President of the United States.

(applause)

- In the early 90s, I was
Ambassador in Australia

and in 1995,

Rabin had called me up in Australia

asking me to come back and
rejoin his team and we set

a date in early November
that I would meet with him

and

I would get my job description

as a personal advisor to him.

When I walked in,

we hadn't met each other
in a few years and it was

kind of a happy reunion.

Now this was the Rabin who had shaken

Arafat's hand at the official

ceremony on the White House Lawn

and

I couldn't resist by saying

"Yitzhak, why did you
shake that man's hand?"

And in his classic Rabin fashion,

he stood up,

walked to the window, hands in pockets,

stared out of the window and began

to deconstruct.

He said that we had always
considered the Israel-

Palestinian conflict a political conflict

and a political conflict, he said is

solvable by political means.

However because of the rise of
fundamentalism through Iran,

Islamic fundamentalism was
spreading over the whole of

the Middle East and it was
turning the political conflict

into religious conflict
and there's no solution,

he said, to a theological conflict.

It's your God against
my God and therefore,

"I was ready to take this quantum leap

"and try and break this Gordian Knot that

"the Middle East had
become by establishing

"first of all a conversation and then

"a dialogue with the PLO
and making a breakthrough

"here for what the people
want, which is peace

"and peace with security," so he insisted.

(applause)

Now this conversation took place on

Wednesday, November the First, 1995.

He said "Let's meet again on Friday,

"by which time I'll ask my legal advisor

"to draw up your job description."

It came to Friday, we briefly went over

the job description which he initialed.

Saturday night, he attended a peace rally

in the square in Tel Aviv.

(singing in foreign language)

(applause)

(gunshots clacking)
(crowds screaming)

(somber violin music)

(speaking foreign language)

My wife and I were with
friends when we heard the news

and

it didn't sink in.

(alarm blaring)

(soft violin, guitar music)

Ben-Gurion laid the foundations
of the State of Israel.

It was his generation
that established credos

of returning to the soil,
of the dignity of labor.

The norms of society flourished under this

ethos of the original pioneers.

Then came Levi Eshkol

and he put forward

a very compelling case

of what was to become

a totally new strategic
relationship between

the superpower the
United States and Israel.

Golda Meir on the outside appeared

to be the grandmother
of the Jewish people,

her craggy features, her Milwaukee accent.

I think Golda Meir was the first Prime

Minister we had who had
a profound understanding

and empathy with the Ashke Jewry.

Then there was Yitzhak Rabin with

that extraordinary conceptual mind,

this man of utter logic.

Chief of Staff during the Six-Day War

that led us to this outstanding victory.

Then came the quintessential
Jew, Menachem Begin.

This was the first truly
ideological Prime Minister

whom the land of Israel
from the Jordan River

to the Mediterranean Sea was sacrosanct.

Shimon Peres, a visionary,

a man with a tremendous
record of achievements

and he was to become
one of the most eminent

of Presidents that Israel has ever had.

All of them had this
notion of self-sacrifice.

In every generation, we have to

show our self-sacrifice
simply in order to live,

simply in order to allow our
people to live normal lives.

When I first arrived, I looked up

an old friend whom I knew from England.

Her name was Esther and
she used to speak often

about her younger sister in London.

She once said "I'd love you
to meet my sister, Mimi."

Whom I did eventually meet
and she became my wife.

Esther volunteered full
time for the Haganah

and as the tensions in the
country began to mount,

she volunteered to enter the Old City

and I was horrified.

The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was

a siege within a siege and it was a place

you fled from, that you didn't go into.

Esther

was killed on the day that

the Old City capitulated
to the Arab Legion.

She passed away as she was saying

Psalms.

She was 22.

In some dugout,

a letter was subsequently
found in the debris.

It was her last letter

to her parents in London,

to her sister Mimi and
to her brother Asher.

- [Esther] Dear Mommy,
Daddy and everybody,

I am writing to beg of
you that whatever may have

happened to me, you will
make the effort to take it

in the spirit that I want and
to understand that for myself,

I have no regrets.

We have had a bitter
fight, I have tasted hell

but it has been worthwhile because I am

convinced that the end
will see a Jewish State

and the realization of all our longings.

Very sweet it has been here in our land.

I am thinking of you all
and am full of pleasure at

the thought that you will
one day very soon I hope

come and enjoy the fruits of
that for which we are fighting.

Remember me only in happiness.

Shalom aleichem,

your loving Esther.

- [Yehuda] She's buried on Mount Herzl,

the Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Esther is more than an eternal
memory within our family.

She's a role model.

Children here in Israel,
when I look at what is

demanded of them, this is
still a generation that

tells us what can we give
rather than what can we take.

The road that we have walked

from the pit to the heights

in the space of hardly two generations

and it's thanks to the sacrifice

of the Prime Ministers
and the people of Israel.

I have been privileged to watch

that happen and be a part of it.

(relaxed violin, trumpet music)

(orchestral violin music)

(orchestral violin music)

(orchestral violin music)

(MultiCom Jingle)