Wednesday, June 27, 2018

William in Jerusalem

Editorial of The New York Sun | June 25, 2018

Too bad Menachem Begin isn’t alive to see Prince William’s visit to Israel. Begin was the leader of the underground who led the revolt against the British that led to the emergence of the Jewish State. There was a time when Begin’s face was plastered on a British wanted poster. Now William’s is the first official state visit by a member of the Royal Family that once held the Palestine Mandate.

HISTORY's TRICKS: How Menachem Begin would have enjoyed Prince William's visit to Israel that starts this evening. Israel's 6th Prime Minister was once on a British wanted poster for his role in the underground movement that eventually led the revolt against the British Mandate. Later as prime minister of the Jewish state, Begin sent a letter to Prince Charles and Lady Diana congratulating them on the birth of their first son. Charles and Diana sent a warm reply. When William is eventually anointed, it will be to a hymn about Zadok, Nathan, and Solomon. Begin would have enjoyed that, too.

How Begin would have enjoyed the moment today. We gained a glimpse of that in 1983, when, as a young editor of the Wall Street Journal, we interviewed Begin in his office in Jerusalem. The invasion of Lebanon had just begun, and Begin was in an upbeat mood. When the question of Britain came up, Begin expressed warm sentiments toward Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Begin remarked that he’d sent the royal couple a note of congratulations on the birth of Prince William and had received a lovely reply. Then he asked his omnipresent secretary, Yechiel Kadishai, to see if he could find the letter. Kadishai dashed into a side office and emerged moments later with the epistle from England, a friendly note signed “Charles” and “Diana.”

Begin and his guests sat there and kvelled over the surprises that history is capable of springing. Certainly the validation of the visit by the prince on whose birth Begin had sent congratulations would not have been lost on him — nor will it, one can guess, be lost on any of those who lead Israel today, including President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the leaders of other Mideast states.

William’s visit certainly comes at a moment when the wind is at Israel’s back. It’s not just that an American president has, in Donald Trump, finally bowed to the American Congress and moved our embassy to the capital of the Jewish state. It’s also that the Arab states are starting, if only that, to see a commonality of interest with Israel against an aggressive Islamist regime in Iran.

Just this week, Israel Hayom reported that “top officials in the moderate Arab nations” are signaling that they would “back an American ‎peace plan for the region regardless of whether the ‎Palestinian Authority agrees to discuss it.” That doesn’t mean peace is around the corner. A war with Iran and its proxies is brewing. The moment, though, does suggest that amid all the turmoil Israel is still steadily gaining ground.

Britain itself has been far from perfect on Israel. It voted in the Security Council for Resolution 2334. That was the vote opposing Israel’s settlement of the lands of Judea and Samaria that were liberated by Israel during the wars launched against the Jewish state. It has not stopped William from making a friendly visit to the capital whose old city Kensington Palace describes as occupied Palestinian territory.

So William’s visit is a nice moment. And not just for Israel. Britain can be proud of how the lands it once administered have prospered. The Sun has no use for colonialism. Yet the states that learned administration under British rule — America, Botswana, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, India, among others — have fared relatively well. As is the obverse. When William is eventually anointed, after all, it will be to a hymn about Solomon. We can imagine Begin would have enjoyed that, too.

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