Labor Minister, Ex-Gen. 'Fuad' Ben-Eliezer: Time's Up. World Is Tired of Us. Bibi Must Decide

Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer, Israeli minister of trade, industry and labor, is the senior leader of the Labor Party’s hawkish wing, a tough-as-nails ex-general and currently the party’s grand old man. Born and raised in Iraq, he was a career soldier from 1954 until 1984, the first Israeli liaison to the South Lebanese Christian militias, military governor of the West Bank from 1978 to 81 and of the territories 1983-84. Retiring as a brigadier general, he entered politics in 1984 as a follower of Likud breakaway Ezer Weizman. He’s been a cabinet minister almost continuously since 1992, including a stint as Ariel Sharon’s first defense minister. Last week he gave a lengthy interview to Ariella Ringel-Hoffman in the Yediot Ahronot Friday supplement.

He’s 74, the oldest Knesset member, the oldest cabinet member, 26 years in Israeli politics, minister in seven governments including defense minister at the height of the second intifada. He’s long been considered the strongman of the Labor Party, confidante of party chairman Ehud Barak, close to Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres’s favorite traveling partner on overseas visits.

“And never,” he says, “has Israel been in as difficult situation as it is in today.” And never has he himself been “so worried, and yes, so pessimistic.” …

He was in Doha, the capital of Qatar, at the end of May when the flotilla incident occurred, sitting on one of the major panels at an international economics conference. He watched on the big screens in the meeting room and out in the hallways as our soldiers rappelled down onto the Turkish ship, saw footage of the wounded and the dead. He heard the world condemning Israel, and he found himself in the position of having to speak for Israel before he could even find out firsthand what actually happened, having to explain why Israeli boats had to stop the ship on the high seas. Immediately afterward the Qataris assigned two or three bodyguards to reinforce his existing guard, and he was walking around surrounded by seven tough guys in white robes who accompanied him from camera to camera, until he was told in no uncertain terms that it would be a good thing if he would return to Israel.

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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Labor Minister, Ex-Gen. 'Fuad' Ben-Eliezer: Time's Up. World Is Tired of Us. Bibi Must Decide

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