Newly released recording demonstrates dynamics of Reagan-Begin relationship

Just released Reagan recording made in 1983 shows then-prime minister Menachem Begin balking at White House request to postpone IDF withdrawal from Lebanon.

By Yitzhak Benhorin

 

Ronald Reagan recorded then-prime minister Menachem Begin during a 1983 conversation on an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 1983, the New York Post revealed Sunday.

Author William Doyle received the tapes almost 20 years after he requested them under the Freedom of Information Act, the Post said.

In the tape, Begin can be heard evading a request by Reagan to delay the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, so that the Lebanese army could deploy in its stead.

“It’s a call that I have resisted making and did not want to make,” Reagan says. “And the only reason I am making this call now is because the situation has changed in the five days since you willingly agreed to delay and we all had hoped that its all we had to ask of you.”

The prime minister appears to be reluctant to delay the withdrawal, and avoids giving the president a direct response.

“Ron, I just spoke to the foreign minister … in Jerusalem and now with also the defense minister who came back from Lebanon. I know that the evacuation had to start tonight,” Begin says. “I will get in touch with our defense minister any minute when we finish, and then I’ll get in touch with you. Because what I want to say now is that the two previous delays which we accepted only because you asked us to do so, we knew it will, create resentment… especially the second one. As a result of that experience, I really express the hope… that we will not have to delay again.”

Begin then raises the concern of a delayed pullout clashing with the Jewish New Year holiday, and apparently hands the issue off to his defense minister, the American-born Moshe Arens.

“Now there is also the problem of our Rosh Hashanah… therefore we decided to start it (the withdrawal) on Saturday night instead of the beginning of last week, so that it would finish on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. It’s a very complicated matter…If you allow me, I wish only to get in touch with the Minister for Defense Arens and then I will give you all the details. If you allow me again perhaps the defense minister can perhaps get in touch with you.”

Israel ultimately pulled back its troops from the Chuf region on September 3, 1983, four days before Rosh Hashanah that year.

The recording was one of a series made by Reagan of conversations from the White House. Other tapes include Reagan apparently ironically offering his congratulations to then Syrian president Hafez Assad for his election victory in a race in which he had no rivals. The president can also be heard talking to former Pakistani leader Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq as he sought to end the June 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 by Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, who were demanding the release of Shi’ite prisoners from Israeli jails.

 

View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4589774,00.html

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