Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter

During one of Menachem Begin’s initial meetings with Jimmy Carter, the subject of Israeli settlements in the West Bank inevitably arose and it was a major sticking point in their relationship.

He (Begin) took out a piece of paper from his inside pocket, adjusted his spectacles, peered at the page, absorbed its contents, and then said with sudden good humor, “Mr. President, here in the United States of America there are eleven places named Hebron, five places named Shiloh, four places named Bethel, and six places named Bethlehem.”

Jimmy Carter’s eyes grew faintly amused.  “Indeed, there are.  Within twenty miles of my home there is a Bethel and a Shiloh.”

“May I be permitted to visit them one day?”

“Of course. With pleasure! There are three good Baptist churches there.”

“In that case, I shall bring along our chief rabbi to protect me.”

Everyone laughed, but it was a hollow laugh.

“Allow me to put to you a hypothetical question.  Imagine one day that the governors of the states in which these Hebrons and Shilohs and Bethels and Bethlehems were located were to issue a decree, declaring that any citizen of the United States was free to settle in any one of these places except for one category- the Jews.  Jews are forbidden to build homes in the Shilohs and the Hebrons and  the Bethels and the Bethlehems of America- so it would be decreed!”

Begin threw up his hands and let out an inflated sigh:  “Oh dear!  Everybody is welcome to settle in any of these places whose names derive from the Book of Books except for the People of the Book.  Good women and men everywhere would cry from the rooftops- ‘Scandalous!’ ‘Discrimination!’ ‘Bigotry!’ Am I not right?”

Jimmy carter heard the penny drop and did not like the sound of it. “Hypothetically,” he said, not amused.

Whereupon Begin clinched his argument.  “So how can you expect me, a Jewish prime minister of the Jewish State who heads a cabinet of fifteen Jews, free men all- how can you expect me to forbid my fellow Jews from acquiring a piece of land and building a home in the original Shiloh, in the original Bethel, in the original Bethlehem, and in the original Hebron, from whence our Jewish forefathers originally came?  Would that not be scandalous?”

From The Prime Ministers by Yehuda Avner.

HKO comments:

Menachem Begin viewed the West Bank as liberated rather than occupied.  But even if the West Bank does become a Palestinian State, why is there no moral outrage in accepting the Palestinian demand that it be Juden Free?

Israel has millions of Arabs and Muslims who own property and have citizenship rights. There are even Muslims in the Knesset.  It is simply stunning that the rest of the world would be willing to accept a new nation bordering Israel that openly excludes Jews.