Perlmutter, Amos
January 1978
Foreign Affairs;Jan1978, Vol. 56 Issue 2, p357
The article examines the conduct of Israeli foreign policy under the administration of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Menachem Begin is the last Mohican of the grand old Zionist generation born in the diaspora. Confounding some expectations, he assumed office as if he were born more to the statesman's manner than to the guerrilla's. His authoritative political style, coupled with strict regard for the forms of legal and constitutional process, has not been seen in Israel since Ben Gurion retired in 1963. The political implications for conflict resolution on Begin's terms are profound. When Begin or his government speaks of Jewish settlement on the West Bank, it is in conformity with his vision of an independent Jewish sovereign polity destined to dominate historical Palestine. The matter of settlement for Begin is not just tactical but strategic and fundamental. Apart from these fundamental ideological differences, Begin's approach to the mechanics of government is similar to that of Ben-Gurion. The common characteristics include: (1) almost total domination of their respective movements and political parties; (2) a manipulative skill that excludes the lower forms of infighting; (3) the granting of considerable leverage and influence to political subordinates; coupled with (4) restrictions on the roles of Cabinet officers and advisors. The reluctance to depend on advisors is particularly noteworthy in Begin's case; there are no éminences grises around him as there were for Ben-Gurion.


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