By Burton Ira Kaufman

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In 1993, Assad attacked the secret Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the PLO, led by Arafat. “Nobody expects us to raise banners of happiness and pleasure with such a clandestine agreement held behind our backs,” he remarked in an American television interview. During the 1980s, Syria obtained massive amounts of Soviet military equipment to replace the weapons it had lost during the Israeli invasion of 1973. Syrian forces also brought about a shaky end to the civil war in Lebanon, driving out more militant PLO groups from northern Lebanon and remaining in the country in large numbers until an uprising by the Lebanese against their control forced them to leave the country in 2005.

Instead, he proposed granting the Palestinians limited home rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a fiveyear period, during which Israel would “hold Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel playing chess with National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski at Camp David, 1978 (Jimmy Carter Library) Begin, Menachem Wolfovitch in abeyance” its claim to sovereignty over the region. After five years, Israel would decide whether to continue or modify the arrangement. ” When the Israeli prime minister came to Washington in spring 1978 at Carter’s invitation, the president could barely contain his disdain for Begin, who, in his mind, had become the major roadblock to peace in the Middle East.

With the dissolution of the Irgun, Begin established the strongly nationalist Herut Party and for the next 30 years was its leader in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). During the Six-Day War of 1967, he joined the cabinet as a minister without portfolio. In 1969, he resigned in opposition to an Arab-Israeli peace plan worked out by the United States that called for a return of Arab territories seized in the 1967 war. Instead, he formed the Likud Party, a rightist segment of Herut. Regarded at first as a fringe party, Likud gained in political strength in part because of its appeal among the Sephardim, immigrants to Israel from the Middle East and North Africa who were attracted to its commitment to build Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and in part because of complacency and corruption in the Labor Party that had governed Israel since its establishment.

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