The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers (2013) - full transcript

Based on the best- selling book by Ambassador Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers takes the audience inside the offices of Israel's Prime Ministers through the eyes of an insider, Yehuda Avner, who served as a chief aide, English language note-taker and speechwriter to Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. The first of two parts, The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers focuses on Ambassador Avner's years working with Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir and then US Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin and reveals new details about the Six-Day War, the development of Israel's close strategic relationship with the United States, the fight against terrorism, the Yom Kippur War and its aftermath. In the spring of 2014, the second film based on Ambassador Avner's book, The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers, will be released, examining Ambassador Avner's experiences with Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres as well as his service as Israel's Ambassador to England. The early efforts at negotiating agreements with Egypt, the raid on Entebbe, Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, the Camp David Accords, the bombing of Iraq's nuclear facility, the war in Lebanon, the Oslo Accords and the ongoing struggle to make peace with Israel's Arab neighbors and the Palestinians are some of the topics covered as The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers builds to its dramatic and emotional conclusion. Weaving a rich tapestry of history and personal testimonies, The Prime Ministers brings some of the most important events of the 20th and 21st centuries to life.

(gentle music)

- I was born in 1928,
the youngest of seven.

My mom and dad came from eastern Europe

to Manchester, England at
the turn of the century.

My mother was a very passionate Zionist.

I remember chatting
with my mom about things

going on in Palestine, always nice things,

always children, summer,
bronzed, always carefully.

And one day, I was introduced
to a religious Zionist.

He was a movement called the Bnei Akiva.

They communicated to us.



I had a magnificent dream
of a paradise awaiting us,

if only we would leave this
background of Manchester

to the new future of the
home Israel, of Palestine,

where we were going to build Utopia.

So I would daydream,
thinking of myself out there

in Galilee or somewhere,
a rifle over my shoulder

pushing a plow, thinking
as I stare at sunsets

on yonder horizon, I was
determined to get there.

And then a small miracle fell into my lap.

I actually got a scholarship
to go to Palestine.

In November 1947, I found
myself at the railway station

in Manchester bidding
farewell to a lovely family,

a most lovely family.

Sitting on the train and
hearing the most exciting sounds



that a young fellow can ever hear,

and that's the puff,
puff, puff of the train

leaving the station into the unknown,

but the unknown was so exciting.

I never could have imagined
as that young boy of 17

where that unknown was going to take me

over the next four decades,

that I would not only
witness but also participate

in some of the greatest events
not just of Israel's history

but which also impacted the
world's history as well.

(dramatic music)

(explosion booming)

At the end of 1947,
the ground in Jerusalem

was beginning to shake

as the United Nations was
about to pass a resolution,

a partition of the country,

between a Jewish state and an Arab state.

What had began as demonstrations and riots

within weeks after my arrival
became the actual bloodiness

of the War of Independence.

It was in this atmosphere
that the students

of that group to which
I belonged volunteered

and we became kind of a diggers brigade.

We were digging fortifications

because the impending
prospect was that five Arab

regular armies were going to invade us.

May the 14th, 1948,
midnight on that Friday

the they bid us, the Jew, to leave

the territorial waters of Palestine.

My bucket brigade, some 25 of us

on a location overlooking a cargo.

Among our group was a fellow
called Leopold Mahler,

a violinist, grandfather of
the composer Gustav Mahler.

He had been leader of the violin section

of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

World War II, Final Solution,

Auschwitz, that's where he ended up.

And there he played, he went
to the Auschwitz Orchestra.

This is where he would
also keep his violin,

in the death camp.

And wherever he went, he took his violin.

Everything that he says, it
was expressive of melancholy.

We, our group were very, very sensitive

about Mahler's fingers.

Where we were, we had
no field intelligence,

we had no telephone,

we had no radio, we had no
idea what was happening.

And now, commander to protect
Mahler and his fingers.

Told him, try and get
away to get into town.

Bring back information what's happening.

There we were in the
trenches, some with rifles,

some without rifles,
waiting for the attack,

for the anchor in the midst of all this.

Out of the blackness of the
sky suddenly appears Mahler.

He brought some news.

And he says, Ben-Gurion
did declare independence.

The state is coming
into being at midnight.

And the British have
known all the union Jacks,

they've left the country.

Mahler, what's the name of our state?

Mahler looks with a blank stare.

And he says, I don't know,
I didn't think to ask.

What do you mean, you don't know?

So somebody says, you know what?

I bet it's gonna be called Yehuda, Judea.

King David's kingdom was called Judea.

Nah, said another, it'll
be called, Zion, Zion,

Zionist, so I said maybe
they'll call it Israel, Israel.

Whatever, who cares, let's drink

a (speaking in a foreign
language) to our new state.

(upbeat music)

And we went into town,
that's where we found out

the name of this place is called Israel.

There were tons of people all
over the place celebrating.

They saw Mahler's violin, so
they urged him to take it out.

It was almost celestial,
and he began first of all

to play a very slow motion
(speaking in a foreign language).

And then gradually, the
rhythm began to pick up

until everyone, prances
into a whole dance,

this (speaking in a foreign language).

And for the first time,
I saw a smile on his face

and a glitter in his eye.

(gentle music)

Returning to Kibbutz Lavi with
a wife on the upper suburbia

of the Jewish community in
London to still the tents

and the shacks and the mud and the stones

and the locks of Lavi,

it didn't last very long.

And a year later, we moved to Jerusalem.

I'd always enjoyed writing,
I'd always enjoyed editing.

In 1955 I got a job editing
a rather obscure magazine

published on behalf of the Jewish Agency.

I was lucky to get this
job, but it paid in pigeons.

I was moon lighting, with
whatever other work I could get

in translation and composition.

And this brought me

into the orbit of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

John DeMair was the foreign minister

and he had embarked upon
a very ambitious program

of leap frogging over our
immediate Arab neighbors

to start the ties of friendship

with the African emerging states.

And I was moon lighting

writing in this propaganda
material word into Africa.

The head of the department
in the foreign ministry,

a guy called Eddie Affi, and one day,

this must have been about 1958,
I got a phone call from him.

And he said to me, Yehuda,

would you like to come in and join us?

And the foreign minister,
I said sure I would.

Came a day and it was in 1963

when Eddie Affi was appointed

as Bureau Chief of the then
prime minister, Levi Ashford.

You need to come, we need you here

in the prime minister's
bureau for English speech,

writing, note taking, and
English correspondence.

And that's how I began working

in the prime minister's office.

(upbeat music)

Eshkol was a most affable
man, very easygoing boss.

He was utterly accessible,
he loved Yiddishisms.

The first speech I ever wrote for him

I put in the words, and yes,

we shall be a light unto the nations.

And Eshkol, he could peer
at you over his spectacles.

And when he did that, you knew

something was coming, he says.

- [Levi Eshkol] Younger man,

let's first be a light unto ourselves

and then, we'll bother about
being a light unto the nations.

- I was escorting to his car one day.

A policeman called Lui Yankala.

He was always the one who opened
the prime minister's door.

And so Yankala opens the door of the car

and Levi Eshkol, prime
minister says to him.

- [Levi Eshkol] Lui Yankala,

how am I doing as your
prime minister today?

And Mr. Frieden, are you satisfied?

- [Lui Yanakal] No, I'm not,
my taxes are far too high.

You have to bring down, I'm being robbed.

- [Levi Eshkol] Yankala, we
have to buy weapons for our army

to deter our enemies, and
that cost a lot of money.

And we have to build homes
for our refugee immigrants,

schools for our children,
hospitals for our sick,

and factories for employment.

And while we develop the economy,

the quicker I'll be able
to bring your taxes down.

So be patient, Yankala, be patient.

- Yankala looked at him
with a look which says,

maybe you will, maybe you won't.

And then, he saluted
and he closed the door.

And I'm standing there, I'm only,

what other prime minister in the world

asks a question like
that of a police officer?

And then listen to what he has to say

and then answer him, explain
to him what he's trying to do.

That was not only the nature of the man,

it was the nature of
our society at the time.

One day, a group of about 10, 12 leaders

of the various Jewish
federations and the United States

come to visit him, one
of them says to Eshkol,

"Mr. Prime Minister, you
expect us American Jews

"to know every new
kibbutz, every new moshav.

"But what do Israelis know
about us American Jews?"

And then he turned to me and he said,

"When was the last time, young
man, you were in America?"

And I looked, I said, "I've never been."

"Ah-ha," said the gentleman
to the prime minister.

"You see, you have a
member of your own staff

"who doesn't even know what
American Jews look like."

To which Eshkol said, "So
why don't you invite him?"

To which he said, "I shall."

Now it so happened that that very morning

I had put on the prime minister's desk

a letter for his signature addressed

to the former president Harry Truman.

And this letter had been
requested by the Hebrew University

in Jerusalem who were about to establish

what they called an Institute
for the Study of Peace.

And they wanted it to be
named after Harry Truman.

And as he signed it, he asked this group,

"Will Independence, Missouri
be a part of the story

"arranging for Yehuda here?"

To which the leader of the group said,

"Sure, we can do that."

Eshkol then said to me,
"In that case, Yehuda,

"I want you to present
this letter personally

"to President Truman."

- [Levi Eshkol] Mr. President,

I cannot think of a better choice than you

to bear the name of this
important institution.

The state of Israel will
forever be grateful to you

for your moral and courageous decision

to assert the power and the prestige

of the United States in your support

of Israel's founding in 1949.

- And I said, they came.

I found myself in Independence, Missouri,

ringing the doorbell of
a Victorian style house.

A maid opened the door,
took me into a lounge

which was full of memorabilia
of his whole political life

including clearly from his
days in the oval office.

And there was a piano there.

And on the piano was sheet music.

And I know a bit about music,
so I began studying the notes.

It was called the Missouri Waltz.

(piano music)

- [Harry Truman] I don't
give a damn about that waltz,

young man, but I can't say
that out loud in public

because it's the state song of Missouri.

- I turn around and there in the doorway

is President Harry Truman.

He'd already read the letter.

The maid had given it to him.

- [Harry Truman] Very kind
of Prime Minister Eshkol

to send you personally
to deliver his letter,

and kinder still to give me such credit

for your nation's independence.

But the man he really ought to be thanking

is Eddie Jacobson, not me.

Dear old Eddie, best friend
a man could ever have.

We went through some tough times together,

World War I and then
our haberdashery store,

Truman and Jacobson, went
bust during the Depression.

There was never a sharp
word between Eddie and me

until one day some time in March '48

he came barging into my
Oval Office unannounced.

He said he wanted to talk
to me about Palestine.

Eddie's Zionist friends had
been badgering me nonstop,

some of them in a very disrespectful way.

They wanted me to engage America

to stop Arabic tax on
the Jews in Palestine,

keep the British from
destroying the Arabs,

deploy American soldiers to
do this, that, and the other.

The fate of the Jewish
victims of Hitlerism

was a matter of deep
personal concern to me.

Hitler's war against the Jews
was not just a Jewish problem,

it was an American problem.

I had been seized of the issue

from the day I became president.

And now things had reached a point

where I wanted to let the
whole Palestine petition matter

run its course in the United Nations.

That's where it belonged.

I issued instructions
that I didn't wanna see

any more Zionist spokesmen

so I put off seeing Dr. Chaim Weizmann.

He had come to the states
especially to see me

and Eddie was insistent
that I see him right away.

Because of that, we had words.

I had a statue of Andrew
Jackson in my Oval Office.

Jackson is my lifelong hero.

When Eddie confronted me that day,

he waved to the statue and said,

"Your hero is Andrew
Jackson, I have a hero, too.

"He's the greatest Jew alive.

"I'm talking about Chaim Weizmann.

"He's an old man and he's
traveled thousands of miles

"to see you and now
you're putting him off.

"This isn't like you, Harry."

And I remember looking back
at Eddie standing there

and my saying to him,
"You bald headed SOB.

"You win, I'll see him."

Dr. Weizmann and I
talked for about an hour.

He was a man of remarkable
achievements and personality.

He put it to me that the
choice for his people

was between statehood and extermination.

It was then I assured him

that I would support Jewish statehood.

- And with that, I told him
that I'm about to go home

to my son's bar mitzveh
and he instructed his maid

to bring me out his two volume memoirs.

And he dedicated one
volume to me and I said,

"Since it's my son's bar mitzveh,

"would you mind dedicating
the other one to my son?"

And he said, "Sure," and then
as he escorted me to his door,

he said, "Now, how did Eddie
used to say congratulations?

"Mazel something?"

I said, "Tov," he said, "Yeah,
that's right, mazel tov."

And he shook my hand.

(gentle music)

Levi Eshkol was a pioneer
already in the 1920s

in the Jordan Valley, he was a member

of the very first kibbutz

that was ever established called Deganya.

And irrigation became his thing.

As he entered into government service,

he oversaw the construction
of the national water carrier

which remains to this day the spine

of all our water supplies
throughout the country.

And if you're looking
for the origin origins

of the Six Day War that broke out in 1967

that begins with the fact that the Syrians

up in the north on the Golan Heights

were striving to divert the
headwaters of the river Jordan

which were the main waters of Pilai

of the national water carrier.

So if the Syrians were going to succeed,

then the country would dry up.

(rhythmic drumming)

- [Narrator] Trouble and
death in the Middle East,

a ground and air battle
heavily damages Tiberius

on the Israeli-Syrian border.

Israeli Premier Levi
Eshkol inspects the ruins.

The fighting erupted quickly
when Syrians allegedly fired

on Israeli farmers operating tractors.

Israel used tanks, mortars,
and aircraft to counter attack.

Premier Eshkol said,
"Friendly foreign powers

"will understand the situation."

- Nasir then joined
Syria in support of this,

I can only describe it as
the initial act of war.

And I can still remember
Independence Day of 1967.

There was a parade of
the Israel Defense Forces

taking the prime minister Levi Eshkol.

And by his side was his chief of staff,

Lieutenant General Yitzhak Rabin.

Rabin was handed a note

and then he handed the note to Eshkol

and that note said that Nasir

had just blockaded the straits of Tehran,

the maritime route to
a certain city Eilat.

(dramatic music)

Abdul Nasir began to mobilize
the whole of the Arab world.

Then the rhetoric began to escalate.

And what began as threats against Israel

ended up with the capital,
throw the Jews into the sea.

President Johnson is telling us restraint,

do not fire the first shot.

I am going to put together
an International Flotilla

that is going to make its way
through the straits of Tehran

and thereby break the Egyptian blockade.

And all the time, Eshkol was
restraining his military,

insisting that we have
to give America a chance

to do what Lyndon Johnson
said he's going to try and do.

But then I remember telling him

that we don't have the time.

That they are going to attack any minute.

And a week went by and two weeks went by

and Lyndon Johnson
simply couldn't deliver.

And the mood in the country
became totally demoralized.

(gentle music)

(speaking in a foreign language)

I was in there,

when Eshkol's chief
diplomatic advisor came in

to say that we received a
message from President Johnson

that we should show self restraint

and the Russians have sent us a message

that we should beware of
firing the first shot.

And the prime minister's
military secretary

added that the Egyptians have introduced

poison gas equipment into the Sinai.

And we have no gas masks in the country.

Well then Eshkol said that
our foreign minister Abba Eban

is shortly to meet with President
Johnson in the White House

so I want to speak to him immediately.

Now, the relationship
between Prime Minister Eshkol

and Foreign Minister Eban

was not one of total mutual admiration.

I remember Eshkol once saying,

"Abba Eban never knows to
make the right decision,

"only the right speech."

(Levi speaking in a foreign language)

- [Levi Eshkol] Blood
will spill like water.

(Levi speaking in a foreign language)

I must speak to the learned fool.

- [Operator] I have Eban on
the line, prime minister.

- [Levi Eshkol] You hear me, Eban?

I'm telling you to remind the
president what he promised me,

that the United States would stand by us

if we were threatened.

Tell him this is about to
happen with poison gas, too.

The question is Israel's existence.

(dramatic music)

- Abba Eban called on the
prime minister at his office

and as he walks in, Eshkol says to him,

his eyes bright with a beaming smile.

(speaking in a foreign language)

We have to make a
thanksgiving benediction.

- [Levi Eshkol] This
morning, our air force

caught the whole of Egypt's
air force by surprise

and destroyed practically
all of it on the ground.

We've taken complete control
of the skies and the Gaza Strip

and now we're moving deep into Sinai.

The Syrian, Iraqi, and
Jordanian air forces

have tried firing back
but we're in the process

of destroying them as well.

(Abba speaking in a foreign language)

- [Abba Eban] Thank God,
tell me the Jordanian attack,

how serious is it?

- [Levi Eshkol] So far
just artillery exchanges,

mainly in Jerusalem with a few skirmishes

around Mount Scopus.

I've sent word to King Hussein
for the UN and the Americans

that if Jordan stays out of
the war, we won't touch them.

(alarms sounding)

- Begin had an enormous
sense of Jewish history

and now quoting him, well
he said to me, he said,

"I took myself into a coma
and I thought to myself,

"this is the opportunity
to be able to get back

"all our treasures lost to the Jordanians

"in the old city in 1948."

And he was joined by another
minister of labor, Yigal Allon.

And he found in Yigal Allon,
he found a kindred spirit.

And there standing in
a room, the two of them

sharing the reflections

about this great historic opportunity

to retrieve the old city.

And Eshkol spies him
through the half open door

and he says.

- [Levi Eshkol] No, tell me
what you two are hatching.

- [Yigal Allon] Jerusalem,

Begin and I want the
old city of Jerusalem.

(Levi speaking in a foreign language)

- [Levi Eshkol] That
is an interesting idea.

(dramatic music)

- The Jordanians are pounding away.

Jerusalem streets are empty.

And then shells begin to fall

around the general area of the Knesset.

Everybody's ordered into the shelters.

One of the lower floors of the Knesset

serves as a shelter and there,

you've got members of Parliament

and you have got senior officials

all sitting there on benches

and you've got clocks and
you've got cleaning women

and you've everybody all
huddled, bundled together,

scores of them in this shelter.

And then enters Ben-Gurion from one side

and in comes Begin from the other side

and they move towards each
other and they embrace

and there are cheers galore
as they see these two

old oppositionists, I can
tell you that there have been

such a moment of unity in the
history of the Jewish state

as at that moment, as when
Menachem was being showed.

And then the Six Day War.

And Begin all the time was
thinking old city, old city.

How do we capture them, we
have to capture the old city.

And Begin runs out and there
here comes the prime minister

and takes him to a corner

and asks for the immediate
meeting of a cabinet.

And Eshkol agrees and Begin
makes a pitch supported by Elon

for the immediate
occupation of the old city.

One person who's not there
is minister of defense Dayan.

He's out in the field somewhere.

And so Eshkol speaks on his behalf.

- [Levi Eshkol] Dayan has
serious reservations about this.

He believes that entering
into the old city

will involve house to house fighting

and that could be costly

and there's a chance it will
cause damage to the holy places

of the other faiths and that
will bring the whole world

crashing down on our heads.

Dayan thinks it would be sufficient simply

to surround the old city.

It would then fall to
us like a ripe fruit.

- [Menachem Begin] I disagree,
unless and until Jewish feet

are deep inside the old city
and on the temple mount,

Jerusalem will remain forever divided.

We have to occupy it physically.

- [Simcha Dinitz] Gentlemen,

the Jordanian army is all but smashed

and our own army's at the city's gates.

Our soldiers are almost in
sight of the western wall.

How can we tell not to reach it?

We have in our hands a gift of history.

Future generations will never forgive us

if we do not seize it.

- [Levi Eshkol] Order,
please, I've made a decision.

In view of the situation
created in Jerusalem

by King Hussein's refusal
to heed our warnings,

an opportunity has been created
to capture the old city.

If it comes to it, I overrule Dayan.

- In the meantime, a
brigade of the parachuters

had been ordered from the south
where they had been engaged

to come to Jerusalem.

Begin was staying at the King David Hotel

and couldn't sleep and he kept
the radio on all the time.

And at the four o'clock broadcast,

he heard the news that
the Security Council

was about to pass a ceasefire resolution.

Begin immediately phoned
the prime minister.

- [Menachem Begin] Forgive
me for disturbing your sleep,

prime minister, we have no time left.

I propose the army be
ordered to enter the old city

forthwith before it's too late.

- Eshkol authorized Begin to contact Vayan

to obtain his approval and it was decided

that at seven o'clock
the following morning

there'd be an emergency
meeting of the cabinet

for the immediate entry into the old city.

(dramatic music)

The parachute brigade
found serious opposition

but nothing like the
intensity that they had feared

from the Jordanian legion
who were good fighters.

And within a few hours came
what in the Israeli folklore

is a declaration that
has entered the pantheon

of Israeli triumph.

Those were the words
communicated over the radios

by Colonel Motegol,

the commander of the parachuter's brigade.

(speaking in a foreign language)

The temple mount is in our hands.

(dramatic music)

(speaking in a foreign language)

- But I'd been instructed meantime

to fly to the United Nations
to be at hand for Abba Eban,

who was then addressing
the security council.

But I wouldn't leave without first of all

seeing the west wall.

I knew the chief army
spokesman in Jerusalem

and through his good
offices and military deep

took me through the lion's gate.

And inside was pandemonium,

soldiers of every stripe and of every rank

were rushing through the alley ways

to see the west wall, just to touch it.

And I was privileged to look at it.

I couldn't get anywhere near
it before I flew off to the UN.

(dramatic music)

And here it must be stressed,

this was the first time since
the destruction of the temple

in the year 70 AD that one
of its major constructions

that we made was back in the
hands of the Jewish people.

(gentle music)

Would the old city have been a priority

within the confines of
the Battle of Jerusalem

had it not been for Begin?

It was this sense of history
and mission, the mission

that it inspired and he spelled it out

in the cabinet meeting.

(gentle music)

Well, it was only the
historian looking back

who saw Levi Eshkol in the perspective

of the extraordinary war
leader that he really was.

As the countdowns began,
certain major generals

were publicly accusing
Eshkol of procrastination,

if timidity, of indecisiveness

and simply lacking the
guts to make the decision

to do what was necessary to do.

He withstood all these pressures

until the exact moment when
he knew it was time to go.

And by his side was a very important

chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin.

And so if you take all this together,

the war was more successful
than anybody had anticipated.

Even in six days, we
had the whole if Sinai,

we had the whole of the Gaza Strip,

we had the whole of the West Bank,

we had the whole of the Golan Heights.

Levi Eshkol with his Yiddish wit of his,

he was going around everywhere doing this.

So somebody asked him, "What
does this V stand for?"

You would expect him to
say like, V for victory.

And he said, "This is a V."

(speaking in a foreign language)

How do we get out of all of this?

Suddenly we're in charge
of larger populations

and mass territories.

(gentle music)

Immediately after the defeat of the Arabs,

the Soviet Union began
replenishing the Arab arsenals.

Those who were in the
inner circle here in Israel

knew a horrendous truth,

that we had virtually exhausted ourselves

and having accomplished
in a matter of six days

this extraordinary victory.

We won the Six Day War
with French aircraft,

particularly standing in Melage.

In those days, France
was our major supplier.

But on the very eve of the war,

French President Charles de Gaulle

slapped an arms embargo on us.

So when the war ended,
we had no spare parts.

And this is the context in which

the prime minister Levi Eshkol

decided he must speak
to President Johnson.

Back in Washington, President
Johnson also decided

it's time he had a word with Levi Eshkol.

And it was at the president's suggestion

that instead of meeting in Washington,

he invited Levi Eshkol
to his ranch in Texas.

I get a phone call from
Jerusalem to New York

instructing me to drop
whatever I was doing

and put yourself totally at
the prime minister's disposal

for the course of his visit to the states

which began in New York.

(speaking in a foreign language)

- Should I try to talk Hebrew to you?

English.

- Mr. Prime Minister, are
you seeking military aid

from the United States at this time, sir?

Are you seeking additional aircraft,

Phantom jets as it has been reported, sir?

- I wouldn't like to discuss details

until after I meet the
president and go there.

- We flew into San Antonio, Texas.

There the president was waiting

with virtually the whole

of the Jewish community of San Antonio.

And then we transferred

into the president's
private, executive jet.

And then we flew to his ranch.

When we descended from plane,

there was a big car driven
by the foreman of the ranch.

Lots of howdies as we were
introduced to him and so on.

And the president said, "I'll
take over the wheel now."

This beefy guy, he goes
charging into his acres.

And the acres were vast.

So we were bumping around,
we came into one pasture.

There was a whole herd of cows there.

And the president went
charging right into them

and they scattered, except one.

- [Lyndon Johnson] That's
Daisy, she's as pig headed

as a Texas senator cowlick.

(Levi speaking in a foreign language)

- [Levi Eshkol] What is
the gentile talking about?

- [Lyndon Johnson] This
is my old homestead,

Mr. Prime Minister.

This hill country is where my
mammy and pappy brought me up.

Most of my neighbors are my old playmates.

I've known them all my life.

- [Levi Eshkol] Very nice, very nice.

- Then we came to a cow shed.

And we stop at the cow shed
and out jumps the president

and Eshkol behind him and here

you've got this six foot plus Texan.

Every stride, muscular authority

and our little Levi

trying to keep up with his Hamburg hat.

So the president and the prime minister

walked into the cow shed.

There was this cow, she'd just calved.

All slivery and leathery, much
like feet next to its mom.

And something amazing happened.

He, Eshkol was an old Kibbutz.

It worked in the cow shed as well.

So he crouched down to feel
the muscles of this calf

and the president crouched down with him

and they were doing it
with intense exchange,

discussion between them.

And that coalesced a
relationship even more.

Now we come to the next
day when the talks began.

The talks took place
in the president's den.

There were deep leather furniture

and over stuffed cushions
where you just sat down

and then you went down and down and down.

The president on a rocking
chair up there, up, up, up.

And in order to communicate with him

you had to sit at the
very edge of the couch.

I can just see Eshkol now and his team.

And the talks began.

- [Levi Eshkol] The heart of my mission

is how to create peace in the Middle East

at a time when the Syrian
and Egyptian armies

are being rebuilt at a menacing rate

under Soviet guidance so fast

that the Arab leaders are
contemplating renewed war.

In a word, Mr. President, we presently

do not have the minimum
means to defend ourselves.

- [Lyndon Johnson] So what
are you asking for exactly?

Spell it out.

- [Levi Eshkol] I'm asking
for your F4 Phantom jets.

Without those Phantoms,
we will be deprived

of our minimum security.

We need 50 Phantoms as
rapidly as possible.

- [Lyndon Johnson] 50?

- [Levi Eshkol] Within two years,

our Arab neighbors will
have 900 to 1,000 aircraft.

So it's an either or situation.

Either the United States
provides us with the arms we need

or you leave us to our fate.

If I leave here empty
handed, the Arabs will know

that it was not only the
French who said no to us,

but the Americans, too.

Mr. President, Israel is
pleading for your help.

- [Lyndon Johnson] Planes won't

radically change your realities.

The big problem is how two
and a half million Jews

can live in a sea of Arabs.

- Then Dean Rusk, his
secretary of state spoke,

and the essence of his remarks were,

however many aircraft we supply,

you're never going to be able to catch up

to the Arabs and what the
Russians are supplying to them.

- [Dean Rusk] What kind of Israel

do you want the Arabs to live with?

What kind of Israel do you

want the American people to support?

Surely the answer to those questions

is not to be found in military hardware.

- [Levi Eshkol] These
are difficult remarks

you're making, Mr. Secretary.

All I can say to you
now is that our victory

blocked the Soviet Union from
taking over the Middle East

and that surely is an American interest.

As for the kind of Israel
the Arabs can live with

and the American people can support,

the only answer I can
give you is an Israel

whose map will be different

from the one on the
eve of the Six Day War.

- [Dean Rusk] How different?

- But Dean Rusk again
began pressing this point,

the president scribbled a note to him.

Dean, go slow on this thing.

How do I know?

Because when the meeting broke up

that note was still on the table

and I slipped it into my pocket

and I got it to this day.

Those words, Dean, go slow on this thing,

echoed a sentiment within
the president himself.

That he was not going to accept blankly

the advice of his advisors on the subject.

There was something inside him

that was whispering that we
have to help in some way.

- [Lyndon Johnson] I have
absolutely no argument

with you, Mr. Prime Minister,

as to your peace aim and a
need to keep Israel secure.

And it seems to me that
the most useful thing

that can be done is for America

to reach an agreement with the Soviets

to avoid an arms race

while at the same time

trying to get some kind
of peace process going.

(Levi speaking in a foreign language)

- [Lyndon Johnson] What was
that, Mr. Prime Minister?

- [Levi Eshkol] Nothing, just a sigh.

If only we could get
the peace process going.

- [Lyndon Johnson] The
chances might be slim,

but time must be given to try.

- [Levi Eshkol] Mr.
President, how much time?

I would love somebody in the world

here in this room to tell me

how I can get a peace
process going with the Arabs.

But instead of peace, we're
faced with an Arab rearmament

that again threatens our very existence.

Mr. President, the state of Israel

is the last chance for the Jewish people

but I know of only one address

to acquire the tools we
need to defend ourselves

and that address is you.

- Eshkol had caught the
president's inner ear.

And the president came back

with a draft of a written statement.

The bottom line of it
meant, you could see this

in Eshkol's eyes, yes,
we've understood you,

we understand your predicament,

and we are going to consider favorably

the supply of the F-4 Phantom aircraft.

And I can still see Levi Eshkol's face

as he rose and the president rose

and they shook hands warmly

and Eshkol say to him,

"Thank you, Mr. President, thank you."

And indeed, it was a
historic turning point.

(dramatic music)

Levi Eshkol summoned Lieutenant
General Yitzhak Rabin,

chief of staff of Israel's defense forces

and a hero of the Six Day War

to report to him on what had happened

in his conversations with the president.

- [Levi Eshkol] If the
president is true to his word,

there could be a new relationship

between us and the Americans.

It might even be the start of
a de facto strategic alliance.

- [Yitzhak Rabin] This is why,
when I retire from the army,

my ambition is to be appointed

Israel's next ambassador to Washington.

- [Levi Eshkol] You, ambassador?

Are you telling me that you're ready

to stand around at cocktail parties,

sit through boring banquets,

and play all those dreary diplomatic games

diplomats have to play?

Believe me, Yitzhak, you're no diplomat.

- He knew who he was talking to

because Rabin had no small talk.

If he had a sense of humor
at all, he rarely showed it.

He was shy to a fault.

If somebody would say to him,

how are you, he was capable of clamping up

and considering that an
unacceptable intrusion

into his privacy.

- [Yitzhak Rabin] The
reason I want Washington

is because strengthening our
links with the United States

is gonna be our biggest
political challenge

in the years ahead.

Here is an area where I
can make a contribution.

- [Levi Eshkol] I'll
have to think about it

and of course, I'll need to
discuss this with Abba Eban.

As foreign minister, he'll have
to approve the appointment.

- [Yitzhak Rabin] Oh, I'm
sure he'll have reservations.

He's not one of my greatest fans

and the feeling is mutual.

- Abba Eban invited Rabin for
a conversation on the subject.

And Rabin later told me that
the conversation with Abba Eban

is invariably a soliloquy

where he does the talking
and you do the listening.

But nevertheless, he got the appointment.

I was sitting at my desk with
the counselors in New York.

I was responsible for
political information

and dealing with the media
when my telephone rings

and there is a deep, baritone.

(speaking in a foreign language)

And here is now this voice asking me

to join him in Washington because he said

that some embarrassment over the telephone

because speaking Hebrew, not his English,

left much to be desired.

So there I found myself in Washington

at the embassy and I asked him,

knowing that he'd just arrived,
what do you plan to do?

What are your goals here in Washington?

He stood up, walked to the
window, hands in his pockets.

Stared out of the window.

And talking to space, not to me, said.

- [Yitzhak Rabin] My objectives
in Washington are one,

to ensure that Israel is provided

with her defense requirements.

Two, coordinate the policies
of the United States

and of Israel in preparation
for possible peace moves.

Three, securing American financial support

to cover our arms purchases
and buttress our economy.

And four, ensuring that America

employs its deterrent strength

to prevent direct Soviet
military intervention

against Israel in the even of war.

- This was a mind that was
so analytical, so structured

that you would put before
him what would seem to be

a complexity of issues.

And he'd very soon cut right to the bone

and say, well, it boils
down to this, A, B, C, D, E.

I remember he asked me to
prepare a talking paper.

This essentially was
my job, talking papers.

And so there I was on that first day,

trying to transpose his cryptic Hebrew

into a simple English.

So by the time I finished, he'd gone home

and he'd left instructions I
should deliver it to his home.

He was in the middle of dinner

with two guests who were old
pals of Rabin for the night.

And that was the first time
I set eyes in there, Rabin,

strikingly attractive woman.

It was all very jolly.

And she loved Rabin as
well, she was part of this,

what they call the (speaking
in a foreign language),

this crowd, and after the
cold formal experience

I'd had with him a few hours beforehand

in the embassy, this was astonishing.

He was a totally different person.

I realized I was in the presence

of a special breed, the
(speaking in a foreign language).

The born of the soil of Israel,

the lives totally dedicated
to the defense of Israel.

Teasers, calling each other

by the most ridiculous nicknames.

All of them had an aversion
to collars and ties.

And I realized then that
this is the one arena

in which Rabin can totally
relax and be himself.

It was literally a very few months after

Rabin assumed office as ambassador

that he gave instructions
to lower the flag

over the embassy door to half mast

and open the memorial book for visitors

to express their condolences

at the passing of Prime
Minister Levi Eshkol,

from a sudden heart attack.

Back in Tel Aviv, the central committee

of the Mapai Labor Party met

to vote for Levi Eshkol's successor.

In those days, there were no primaries.

The decisions of who would serve as what

were made in smoke-filled rooms

by the leaders of the various parties.

And this is how Golda Meir

was chosen as the next prime minister.

When a few hundred hands rise all together

in support of the motion,
she looked around her

first wondering who they were voting for.

She realized it was her

and she put her hands over her face,

half bent and she began to cry.

And she was later to
tell me in one of those

very intimate moments,
Golda, why did you cry?

And she said, "I suddenly realized

"the life and death
burden of responsibility

"that were being thrust on my shoulders."

- Mrs. Meir, may I just
ask you how you feel today?

Just right now, how do you feel?

- I feel terrible because I know that I'm

may be called upon, of
course, parliament decides,

take upon myself a very
awful responsibility.

I'll try with my colleagues in the cabinet

to do the best we can.

- Thank you very much indeed.

(gentle music)

- In the Washington scene,

Rabin was very, very quickly recognized

as not the normal, run
of the mill diplomat.

The politicalites, actually
was curious about him

because they knew he had the direct line

to the decision makers and Jews,

some on the very highest level.

After it came to the attention
of the senior echelons

of the Nixon administration,

some extraordinary things happened.

On one occasion, Rabin was
invited by Dr. Henry Kissinger,

who was president Nixon's head

of the National Security
Council to the White House.

Kissinger said to Rabin
that President Nixon

would like to meet you
and shake you by the hand.

And there in the room was President Nixon

and he says to him, "I know
these are difficult times.

"I appreciate the problems you're facing

"and I understand that
you have to safeguard

"your national interests.

"And I would just like
to shake you by the hand

"and it's been a pleasure meeting you."

And that was it.

Eban was livid.

Eban complained that Rabin
has got no notion of diplomacy

in the sense that he
recognizes no hierarchy.

Rabin is true behaved in a fashion as if

he was sharing ministerial responsibility

and Golda was not disabusing him

of this and neither was Nixon.

Because at a previous meeting
between Golda and Nixon,

they had agreed that the
communications between them

would be direct facilitated
through Kissinger and Rabin

and Eban didn't like it.

I think Rabin overdid it
with respect to Abba Eban.

Abba Eban was a patriot,
was a man of high culture,

he was a scholar of oriental studies.

He was an excellent foreign minister

as a spokesman of Israel
and as a voice of Israel,

he was adored by the
Jewish communities abroad.

He was admired by governments.

However, through the earthy, nitty gritty,

pan-generation, fighting
generation of Israel leadership,

he was a square peg in a round hole.

- To blockade, after all,
is to attempt strangulation

and sovereign states are entitled

not to have their trade strangled.

To understand how the
state of Israel felt,

one merely has to look around this table

and imagine a foreign power, for example,

forcibly closing New York
or Montreal or Boston

or Marseille or Tulum or Copenhagen or Rio

or Tokyo or Bombay Harbor.

How would your governments react?

What would you do?

How long, how long would you wait?

- He did have a vocabulary

that could be rather verbose at times.

There was a satire parody of him

addressing these United
Nations general assembly

and there were all the delegates
with English dictionaries

quickly turning over the pages,

trying to find out the words,
what the meanings were.

But I learned from him a lot.

(gentle music)

(upbeat music)

Rabin's tour of duty as
ambassador was remarkable.

He had gained entry to every
senior level in Washington, DC.

He had a reputation second to none

and in December of 1972,
Newsweek had declared him

to be the ambassador of the year.

Why did it do so?

We were a small embassy.

In Washington, 22 NR, a
ramshackled building really.

But thanks to Rabin, it
had enormous prestige.

It's like Rabin had
returned from Washington

in the early part of 1973,

having concluded his tour
of duty as ambassador.

I had returned some six months before that

and became Golda Meir's head
of the foreign media bureau.

While I was in Washington,

Golda had promised me
a job in the cabinet.

And we met, Rabin and I over coffee

in a downtown cafe in Jerusalem one day.

And he spoke very britly of the fact

that she wasn't keeping her promise.

It had virtually nothing to do.

- [Yitzhak Rabin] Three times,

three different party big shots

have promised me a cabinet position

but nothing has come of any one of them.

It seems that if I want
to go into politics,

I'll have to do it the hard way,

doing my own campaigning

and not relying on Golda Meir's promises.

(gentle music)

- Golda Meir exuded a sense
of warmth on the one hand

and also the classic Jewish grandmother

of keeping a very watchful eye on you.

Time and again she would
reiterate the famous phrase

that all Jews are
responsible for each other.

Her whole life was an expression of it.

She was born in Kiev in 1898
and to the family Mabovitch.

Her family moved to the United States

in the early part of the 20th century.

Ended up in Milwaukee of all places.

She married very young, a
man called Morris Meyerson.

From my understanding, he was
a sign painter by profession

but his whole inner
being was that of a poet.

He was a lover of the arts.

He was happy in Milwaukee,
going to constant art galleries

and moving in the circles of high culture.

And all the time she in Milwaukee

was going to these
passionate Zionist meetings

until the day came in the early 1920s

and she's saying, we're going

to erets, to the land of Israel.

To do what, literally to drain swamps.

And to go to kibbutz.

And the kibbutz that she
chose was an isolated place

in the middle of swamps called Merhavia.

And she loved it and he hated it.

And so while Golda thrived
in the rustic, simple life

of a pioneer, all that Morris could do

was to look at his blistered hands

and say to himself, what am I doing here?

Golda regretfully said,
all right, we'll leave.

And she tore herself away
from the kibbutz life.

She would write lyrical in later years

about how the kibbutz of the 1920s

were the happiest years of her life.

And so they moved to Tel Aviv.

Subsequently, they separated.

She threw herself, she thrust herself

into the political work
of the Labor Party.

There was Golda Meir rubbing shoulders

with the top leadership
led by David Ben-Gurion.

As one of the very first tasks

as she entered into leadership
of the Zionist movement

was in 1938.

In order to deal with
the ever expanding flow

of refugees from Germany,

President Roosevelt convened
the World Conference

in Arielle, France to decide
upon allocating the numbers

that each country would accept.

And it is one of the badges
of shame of human history

that with all the high
folluting diplomatic vernacular,

nobody accepted any of
the Jewish refugees.

And who was there as an observer

on behalf of the Jewish community then

in Israel was Golda Meir.

On the very eve of independence,
desperate situation,

Ben-Gurion dispatched to Golda Meir

on a very unusual mission

to dress herself up as an Arab woman

to cross the lines to go
to Jordan's capital Amman

to meet with the king of Jordan, Abdullah

and to negotiate with him that
in this war that was impeding

with the other Arab states
that he should stay out of it.

And through Tritel, she
received a fair listening

from King Abdullah, but
when it came to the crunch,

he joined in the war.

Very few people thought that
we were going to survive.

It was one thing to declare independence.

It's another thing to
defend that independence.

I mean, how would they
have the means to do so?

Some of the first things
that Ben-Gurion did

was to call in Golda and say,

Golda, for God's sake, get on a plane

and go to America as fast as you can

and collect money, we have
no money to buy weapons.

And so Golda went to America.

And she brought back some unbelievable sum

like a few million dollars.

She was a natural person to ask to go off

to countries far and wide.

And she developed into
an orator in English.

She developed a style
which was one, simple.

But because it was simple it
was all the more compelling.

She became the face of Israel

to hundreds and hundreds
of thousands of Jews

across the world, not
least in the United States.

- Israel was created, not for
the purpose of winning wars.

Israel was created to safeguard

the life of the entire Jewish people.

Israel was created so that every Jew

knows that he can come home

when he has to or when he wants to.

(audience applauding)

And Israel was created for the one purpose

that is the greatest of all,

and that is the in
gathering of our people.

(audience applauding)

- She proved herself time and again

as a person who could bite the bullet

and she was a person who could devote us.

There were some situations

that would have broken lesser people.

During her watch, with
her declarative insistence

for all the world to hear,

I will not negotiate with terrorists.

Children were being
held hostage at a school

that had been captured by the
terrorists in northern Israel.

She wouldn't negotiate with them.

There was a time of
aircraft, a Belgian aircraft

that was hijacked and
landed in Ben-Gurion.

And she wouldn't negotiate with them.

She believed with all her heart

that the moment you start
surrendering to terrorists,

there's no end to it.

(dramatic music)

In September 1973, there was a trickle

of Jews from the Soviet
Union that were low down.

It was very difficult to get out.

The only exit they had
was from Russia to Vienna.

Then in Vienna there was an
old castle called Chennault

and that we had rented as a way station,

a transit point for such Jews.

And there was this day in September

when the train, the Russian train,

at the very border of
Austria was hijacked.

(speaking in a foreign language)

Hostages were taken and the
ultimatum that was given

to the Austrian government was,

close the Chennault transit camp.

Bruno Kreisky, chancellor
of Austria, a Jew

capitulated on the spot,
closed down Chennault,

gave the terrorists safe
passage to the Vienna airport

and off they flew to Libya.

Now Golda Meir heard this

just before she was about to
board a plane to Strasburg

where she had been invited to
address the council of Europe.

Now, protocol required that Golda Meir

read from a written speech

and it was my task to write the speech.

And to my astonishment,
disappointment, even horror,

Golda invited to the
podium carrying her speech,

and then in an almost theatrical fashion

faces the speech to one side and says.

- You will forgive me
if I break from protocol

and speak in an impromptu fashion.

I say this in light of what
has occurred in Austria

during the last few days.

Since the Arab terrorists have failed

in their ghastly efforts
to wreak havoc in Israel,

they have increasingly
taken their atrocities

against Israel and Jewish
targets into Europe.

European governments have no alternative

but to decide what they're going to do.

To each one that upholds the rule of law,

I suggest there is only but one answer.

No deals with terrorists.

What happened in Vienna is
that a democratic government

came to an agreement with terrorists.

In doing so, it brought shame upon itself.

Oh, what a victory for terrorism this is.

(gentle music)

(audience applauding)

- They gave her tremendous applause

and in the course of it,

she slipped a note to her chief aide

to the effect that she wants to fly

from here to Vienna to confront
Bruno Kreisky on the spot.

(gentle music)

And Bruno Kreisky received her.

To the best of my recollection,

when she was ushered into the room,

he stood up but he didn't shake her hand.

Now when you receive a
guest, an important guest,

you invite cup of tea, a cup
of coffee, something, nothing.

And she began on a very reasonable note,

expressing disappointment.

- [Golda Meir] You and
I have known each other

for a long time and I know that as a Jew,

you have never displayed any
interest in a Jewish state.

- [Bruno Kreisky] That is correct,

I have never made any secret

of my belief that Zionism
is not the solution

to whatever problems the
Jewish people might face.

- [Golda Meir] Which
is all the more reason

why we are grateful to your government

for all that it has done
to enable thousands of Jews

to transit through Austria from
the Soviet Union to Israel.

- [Bruno Kreisky] But the
Chennault transit camp

has been a problem for us for a long time.

It has always been an
obvious terrorist target.

- [Golda Meir] Herr Kreisky,
if you close down Chennault,

it will never end.

Wherever Jews gather in
Europe for transit to Israel,

they will be held to ransom by terrorist.

- [Bruno Kreisky] Mrs. Meir,

it is Austria's humanitarian duty

to aid refugees from whatever
country they come from.

But not when it puts Austria at risk.

I shall never be responsible
for any bloodshed

on the soil of Austria.

- [Golda Meir] You have opened the door

to terrorism, herr chancellor.

You have brought renewed shame on Austria.

I have just come from
the council of Europe.

They condemn your act almost to a man.

Only the Arab world
proclaims you their hero.

- [Bruno Kreisky] Well, there is nothing

I can do about that.

You and I belong to two different worlds.

- [Golda Meir] Indeed, we do, Mr. Kreisky.

You and I belong to two
very, very different worlds.

- [Yehuda] Then she got up.

And he said to her,

"Well, the press is
waiting in the next room.

"They expect us to give
a joint press conference.

"So would you like to follow me?"

She said, "No, I don't
want to stand with you

"in a press conference, I'm going home."

(dramatic music)

We flew back home that night.

We arrived in the early
hours of the morning

and there was the Israel media,

a pack of them waiting for us,

asking what actually
happened and she said.

- [Golda Meir] I can sum it all up

by telling you he didn't even
offer me a glass of water.

- Then she huddled with her
defense minister, Moshe Dayan.

And then she heard for the first time

that the Egyptians and the
Syrians were mobilizing.

(dramatic music)

Part of the agreement was that the area

on both sides adjacent to the canal

would be a separate zone

in which no weaponry would be allowed.

The ink had not yet dried

when the Egyptians with
the Soviet advisors

pushed forward a vast
number of their SAM missiles

into this zone of their side of the canal.

Which meant that they now
had control of the skies

for about 10 miles on
our side of the canal.

And this is precisely what they wanted.

That is to create a
strategic situation whereby

if at any time they
wanted to cross the canal

and then the fence against us,

they would have cleared the
skies of Israeli aircraft.

This is what happened on Yom Kippur.

And our military intelligence
has got it all wrong.

(audience applauding)

Abu Basir, the acknowledged the leader

of the Arab world dies.

And his successor is Anwar el-Sadat.

He was not on our
intelligence radar screen.

Suddenly, we began to
see on our television

this tall, gaunt, seemingly humanless man

who had a pension for
extravagant uniforms.

Part of the failure of
our military intelligence

was this perception that we had of the man

and this perception was reinforced

by year after year he was threatening

to crush the Zionist enemy.

And I recall conversations
among us senior folk

almost laughing at him

because every year
passed, nothing happened.

(upbeat music)

But all the time, clearly he
was building up his forces.

We didn't have great respect
for the Egyptian forces.

Didn't have great respect
for the Syrian forces.

But then, we were still in the euphoria

of the victory of the Six Day War.

This conceit expressed itself in arming

both the Egyptian and the Syrian line

with a nominal number of young soldiers

in the regular army.

We had hardly any reserves, we were cocky.

(suspenseful music)

Instantly, around the country,

the mid morning prayers of Yom Kippur

reached a certain climax.

The recitation of that dirge,

who shall live and who shall die.

And in the midst of that in
the synagogue where I was at

the chief warden mounts the
podium and bangs his hand

and makes an announcement.

"Will all those who are members
of the military reserves

"please leave immediately
and directly to your units.

"Take with you your
uniforms and your weapons."

(alarm sounding)

And the siren went and
there were military chiefs

and command cars back and forth.

When I say that we were taken by surprise,

I can verily say to this day

that the nightmare of every
defense minister of Israel

and every chief of staff of Israel

is a recollection of the Yom Kippur move,

taken by surprise.

(suspenseful music)

(speaking in a foreign language)

The carnage of those initial few days

as a couple hundred tanks

were facing a couple of thousand
enemy tanks on both fronts,

the Egyptians across the canal in force,

the Syrians had occupied
much of the Golan Heights

and now were beginning to
descend from the Golan Heights

into the road leading to Jaifa.

(speaking in a foreign language)

This was the most perilous
moment in the history of Israel.

When Golda Meir prime minister

and Moshe Dayan defense minister,

they viewed the scene, there
was fear if not despair.

We now enter the seventh,
eighth day of the war

as Succoth, the Festival of Tabernacles.

Massive armored battles
were taking place in Sinai.

The Syrian front was
beginning to galvanize.

Syrian soldiers began to throw away

their equipment, their uniforms,

and we were now well on
the road to Damascus.

It was at this point that Golda Meir

said she wanted to visit the Syrian front.

There we looked out on what
had been the battlefield

of a couple of days earlier by troops

who had finally stopped the Syrian troops,

the carnage, the stench of death,

the whole deal a terrible, terrible battle

was there in front of us in a valley

that came to be dubbed the Veil of Tears.

The bodies were still lying there.

That's what Golda wanted
to see with her own eyes.

And there, there was a soilistic scene

of this old woman who knew
absolutely nothing about warfare

suddenly becoming a war leader.

As she observed the scene, her
face became terribly cracky.

And then she turned and
she saw an amazing sight.

It was the Festival of Succoth.

About 30 yards away was a troop carrier

with a hatch of palm leaves.

In other words, it was a mobile Succoth.

And standing in that strange Succoth,

about a dozen men
wearing trechols, praying

their backs to her.

And she said, "Today, I
want to speak to those men."

So we approached, they didn't see her,

and she just stood there watching.

Suddenly they stand up and they freeze.

And she greets them.

(speaking in a foreign language)

And she starts asking who they are.

They were reservists, so
she found herself speaking

to an accountant, to a few lawyers,

to a few falafel vendors.

Ours was a citizen army and she
asked them about the battle,

about the casualties.

- [Golda Meir] Now is there anyone

who would like to ask me something?

- [Soldier] I have a question.

My father was killed in
the war of '48 and we won.

My uncle was killed in
the war of '56 and we won.

My brother lost an arm in
the '67 war and we won.

Last week, I lost my best friend up here

and we're going to win.

But is all the sacrifice
worthwhile, Golda?

What's the use of our sacrifice
if we can't win the peace?

- [Golda Meir] I weep for your loss

just as I grieve for all our dead.

And I must tell you, were our
sacrifices for ourselves alone

then perhaps you would be right.

But if our sacrifices are for the sake

of the whole Jewish people,

then I believe with all my heart

that any price is worthwhile.

Let me tell you a story.

In 1948, I arrived in Moscow

as Israel's first ambassador
to the Soviet Union.

The state of Israel was brand new.

Stalinism was at its height.

Stalin had proclaimed war against Judaism.

He declared Zionism a crime.

The first Sabbath after I
presented my credentials,

my embassy staff joined me

for services at the
Moscow Great Synagogue.

It was practically empty
but the news of our arrival

in Moscow spread quickly so
that when we went a second time,

close to 50,000 people
were waiting for us,

old people and teenagers,

even men in officer
uniforms of the red army.

Despite all of the official
threats to stay away from us,

Jews had come to demonstrate
their kinship with us.

Inside the synagogue,
people surged around me,

stretching out their hands, crying.

(speaking in a foreign language)

Welcome, Golda.

(speaking in a foreign language)

Golda, a long life to you.

And all I could say
over and over again was.

(speaking in a foreign language)

I thank you for remaining Jews.

And some cried back to me.

(speaking in a foreign language)

We thank the state of Israel.

And that is when I knew for sure

that our sacrifices are not in vain.

- After they returned

to the military headquarters in Tel Aviv,

Moshe Dayan said to
Golda words to the effect

that we can't go on like this.

- [Moshe Dayan] What we
saw from the Golan Heights

confirms my fears that still
these are going to continue

for an extended period and
the attrition is enormous.

Unless our stores are
speedily replenished,

we won't be left with sufficient
arms to defend ourselves.

- [Golda Meir] Are you saying

that we'll ultimately have
to surrender to the Syrians

and the Egyptians for lack of arms?

- [Moshe Dayan] What I'm
saying is that if our stores

are not replenished at a much faster rate,

we may well have to pull back to shore

for more defensible lines,
particularly in Sinai.

- [Golda Meir] Moshe, one way or another,

I will get you your weapons.

Your job is to bring us to victory.

Mine is to give you the means to do so.

- And Golda said, I have no choice.

But we have to persuade Kissinger
who is secretary of state

and Nixon who is president

that they must replenish
equipment immediately

and if necessary, I'll go myself.

And then she said, get me
Simcha, which is Simcha Dinitz,

who is now our ambassador in Washington.

And it was in the middle
of the night in Washington

and Golda said to him, Simcha,

you've got to wake up Kissinger now

and tell him that to
persuade the president

to replenish aircraft,
tanks, cannon, whatever.

And Dinitz woke up Kissinger.

And there began an extraordinary exchange

between Kissinger and Richard Nixon

was sitting in Key Biscayne, Florida

trying to escape Washington

because of the Watergate scandal.

And we have the record of
the telephone exchanges

in which you hear Nixon's voice.

And you know that man's been drinking.

His language is slurred.

But nevertheless, his mind remained sharp.

They came to a decision,
Nixon was the very first

to articulate it, that
it's simply not a matter

between Israel and the Arabs.

It's a matter between the United
States and the Soviet Union

and therefore we can't
let Israel go under.

And therefore, very quickly,
the idea began to gel

and the decision was made
to mount a massive airlift

of equipment to Israel.

It was Nixon who said, "Use our Galaxies."

And they began landing
at Ben-Gurion airport

in the course of an hour, nonstop.

The Galaxy is the largest
cargo aircraft in the world.

You can put tanks in there,

you can put fighter aircraft in there.

And the president at one point says,

"What the hell, if we're
sending five, let's send 50."

And then more than 50.

Without a refusal, truly,

and not a single European government

would give them permission
to refuel on their territory.

Not a single woman of her perils

in the socialist international

would agree to any of
these American planes

landing on their territory
for refueling purposes.

So eventually, they
refueled in the Azores,

which really belongs to Portugal

but there was an American base there.

She considered herself and
the Labor Zionist Movement

to be part of this grand fraternity

of international socialism,
not communism, God forbid.

But social democrats.

She was perplexed to the extent that

her most fervent beliefs had
been shaken, if not shattered.

And that apparently was a breaking point.

She picked up the phone

to the chairman of the
socialist international,

Willy Brandt, the chancellor of Germany

and she said to him,
"Willy, I would like you

"to convene an urgent
meeting," which he did

and it was held in London.

Golda made a speech, which
in a few sentence paraphrase,

friends, we're at the
stage of utter desperation.

What would have happened if
President Nixon had said,

I'm sorry, but I have nowhere
to land the planes to refuel

therefore we can't help you.

And that question lay hovering
in the air in the hall

and the chairman, chancellor Brandt said,

"Is there anybody who
would like to respond?"

Silence.

And Golda looked straight
ahead and a voice behind her

whispered into her ear, "Not one of them

"will say a thing because
they're all choking on Arab oil."

(suspenseful music)

- I'm here to discuss with friends

the impact of recent events.

And the possibilities for
joined efforts towards peace.

- And Kissinger began a shuttle.

Beginning between Jerusalem,
this was his first shuttle

to bring about separation forces

between Israel along the Suez Canal area.

And then Damascus, Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, Damascus

and back again to bring about

a separation forces
along the Golan Heights.

- This is a beginning for
a real and lasting peace

with all our neighbors
and all our borders.

And this is a day that we hope

that Syrian mothers, Israeli mothers,

Syrian young wives, Israeli young wives,

children on both sides of the border

can go to sleep at night without terror,

dreams of who knows.

If their dear one is alive today,

will he be alive again on the next day.

Mr. Secretary, this is really

to a very great extent your day.

- And very central to the
shuttle back and forth

was a prisoner exchange.

And when he, Kissinger came back

to report to Golda that he has completed

the agreement on prisoner exchange,

Golda showed Kissinger, a token,

a very small, kosher blue and white.

Israeli prisoners of war
in the Egyptian jail.

This was a gift that they had sent her.

There were moments, moments, no more

at this stage of the game

where Jew was speaking to Jew.

Kissinger and Golda,
that was one such moment.

Kissinger knew exactly
what the tollage was.

And he fully appreciated the depth,

the Jewish depth of that little item

which was a message from
our prisoners of war

in Egypt to Golda, we
are strong, we're okay.

And I was there when
the very first contact

was made in kilometer 101

between the head of the
Israeli military intelligence

and the head of the Egyptian
military intelligence

under the United Nations offices.

The two principals facing each other

and they shake each other's hand.

And that handshake was beginning

of what matured into an
actual peace process.

After the 101 Agreement was signed,

Nahum Goldmann soon after the Kinesset

and his leader in opposition

castigated prime minister Golda Meir.

- [Henry Kissinger] The question

every household in Israel is asking

is why was it that between
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

you did not mobilize the reserves

and move our army forward?

What prevented you, madame prime minister,

from taking this most elementary
of precautionary measures?

Why don't you just come out
and openly admit to the nation

that you made a mistake?

- [Yehuda] Golda pretended

that she was immersed in her papers

sitting at the government bench

whilst Rabin was speaking,
but every now and again

she would look up with utter contempt.

- [Yitzhak Rabin] Mrs.
Meir, you know full well

that a government which
fails in a matter so fateful

to the life of a nation

inevitably loses the trust of the people.

So I ask you, by what moral
authority do you stay in office

have to be responsible
for such a misfortune?

I am compelled to say to
you not as a politician,

not as a party member, but
as a father and a grandfather

that I cannot depend on your government

to ensure the future of my
children and grandchildren.

So with all the respect and
the regard I hold for you,

I have to say to you,
please go now, right now.

Go to the president and
hand him your resignation.

- Rabin, he was speaking
for lots of people,

for lots of people in Israel.

Shortly after that came new elections.

And Golda won the election,

albeit by a much smaller
majority than before.

But gradually, the
release of soldiers began

and the more soldiers
that were coming home

to their normal jobs, the
more the whispering began.

The whispering became a grumbling

and the grumbling became accusations.

Now one man mounted a demonstration

in front of the prime minister's office.

He just stood there, he was a reservist.

And then another reservist
stood next to him

and then another and then another

until the one became 20, then 50,

then hundreds just standing
there demonstrating

against Golda Meir in front of
the prime minister's office.

And these demonstrators spread
to other cities as well.

Eventually an inquiry
commission was established.

It was called the Agranat commission

with chief justice Agranat,

who was the president
of our supreme court.

And since its mandate,

which had been established
by the government

related only to the
military aspects of the war,

the political edge, the Golda
Meirs, the Dayans and company,

they remained untouched.

And this created a surge
of anger among our people

which reached such a
pitch, such a crescendo.

There were such demonstrations.

Golda resigned, and with her resignation,

the whole government resigned.

Seeing in retrospect, yes,

Yom Kippur began as utter disaster

and ended with destroying
virtually the enemy forces.

Now if you look at Golda through the prism

as another war began and how it ended

and what political processes
that then transpired,

the consequence of the war put her script

into proper proportion within the totality

of that period of history,

then I have to say that
Golda, yes, looms larger,

the pantheon of Israel's
great prime ministers.

Golda, she set out of office
with enormous dignity.

She didn't just go in to
retirement, that was not Golda.

She took up the cordials
of one of the greatest

humanitarian movements of
contemporary Jewish history,

namely the struggle for the freedom

of Jews in the Soviet
Union that want to leave

and they wanted to leave in their masses,

the Let My People Go movement.

I believe the last occasion

when the whole of the Jewish people

came together in utter
consensus and support

of another Jewish
community that was locked

behind the iron wall.

And one of the reasons were because

they were inspired by Golda Meir.

- [Golda Meir] Today, no one
hears these two words together,

Jewish refugee, there's
no Jew in the world

that needs to be a refugee.

There's no Jew in the world

that needs to feel that he is homeless.

With tens of thousands of Jews

in a year and a half from Russia

be out and going anywhere else?

What gives a strength to
these young men and women?

What is it that gives these young people

the courage, the audacity
to struggle for their right?

And their right, they say
in one single sentence,

we are Jews, there is a Jewish state.

We want to be part of our
people and part of our country.

It is as simple as all that.

- [Yehuda] What is her legacy?

Her legacy is what she
articulated to these soldiers

looking at the Veil of Tears,
that for the Jewish people,

any sacrifice is worthwhile.

- [Golda Meir] If a Jew
dares to dream a dream,

believe him that this may come true.

For 2,000 years, our people,

the classic refugees of the world,

those who are always
candidates to be massacred,

to be discriminated against,

to be second and third
and 10th class citizens

in all parts of the world,

despite that, our people
for 2,000 years in exile

had the courage to dream a big dream.

One day, we will come back to the land

from which we were driven twice before.

We will there established
again our sovereignty.

We will work, we will work with our hands

to create everything in that country.

We will live at peace with our neighbors

and at peace with the entire world.

(dramatic music)