Begin & Bibi v. Biden

In a November 2020 Wall Street Journal column Tevi Troy recalled “When Biden Met Begin” (posted in accessible form on Pundicity). Tevi recounted how Biden and Begin once clashed in a private June 1982 session with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Mr. Biden, 39, lectured the 68-year-old [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin over Israeli settlements, jabbing his finger at the prime minister and banging his fist on the desk. Mr. Biden warned that eroding support for Israel threatened U.S. aid. Israel was at war in Lebanon and far more dependent on American assistance than it is today.

Begin wouldn’t be cowed. “Don’t threaten us with cutting off aid to give up our principles,” he shouted back, according to Time magazine. Former Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon later recalled that Begin went further: “I’m not a Jew with trembling knees,” he reminded Mr. Biden.

In the lore that has since developed, Begin’s response supposedly continued: “I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”

Tevi leaves open the possibly apocryphal nature of the end of the quote. In the Hebrew-language message below, Prime Minister Netanyahu now echoes Begin’s words, apocryphal or not, and responds to the same old Biden:

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