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A Likud ‘Liberal’?

To the Editors:

There were some factual mistakes in Amos Elon’s review “Israel and the Bomb” [NYR, January 15]:

  1. Citing of the “prominent conservative Salman Abramowitz” was not accurate. Elon probably wanted to refer to Zalman Abramov and not to the nonexistent Salman Abramowitz. Elon knew him well and must have, inadvertently, got it wrong. I doubt whether in his life Abramov would have considered himself a “conservative.” He was, and indeed thought of himself as, a liberal in the traditional British and American connotation.

  2. Initially, Abramov was elected to the Knesset as a member of the “General Zionists” party. The General Zionists changed their name in the Sixties and were known as the Liberal Party. Abramov was one of their leaders. The Likud was established in 1973 in a merger of Gahal, the former Herut (Begin’s nationalist) party and the Free Center, a small party led by Shmuel Tamir. Abramov was reelected to the Knesset in December 1973 as a member of the new Likud party. He subsequently had his differences with Begin and Sharon on the West Bank settlements and other issues and decided not to run for reelection in the contest of 1977. He thus could not have “joined the Likud” after the Six-Day War, as Elon claimed.

Shimshon Arad
Jerusalem

Amos Elon replies:

I am sorry for having inadvertently corrupted the late Zalman Abramov’s name.

But juggling American and English political labels in a thoroughly different political environment, as Arad does, is not helpful. In fact it is downright misleading. Zalman Abramov was one of the main architects of the merger between his and Begin’s party. Whether he was a “conservative” or a “liberal,” the fact is that in 1973 he prominently ran for the Knesset on a Likud list headed by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, who openly pressed for the immediate annexation by Israel not only of the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, but also of the entire Sinai Peninsula down to the Suez Canal.

I leave it to Shimshon Arad to say what was “liberal” about that, or the fact that the “liberal” faction within the Likud never publicly protested the settlement project or Israel’s brutal repressive measures, such as merciless collective punishments including the blowing up of houses, making administrative arrests, expelling Palestinian militants in the dark of night across the Lebanese and Jordanian frontier, as well as expropriating private and public Palestinian land, seizing West Bank water resources, and uprooting ancient olive groves, etc.

My point in mentioning Zalman Abramov in the first place was that, in the euphoric aftermath of Israel’s victory in 1967, he never reiterated his original support for a denuclearized Middle East.

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