clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

EX-ISRAELI PREMIER IN HOSPITAL AFTER HEART ATTACK

Menachem Begin, the former prime minister who made peace with Egypt but led Israel into a divisive war in Lebanon, suffered a heart attack Tuesday and was rushed unconscious to a hospital.

A Polish Jew whose parents were killed by the Nazis, Begin came to political power after serving as a guerrilla in the underground war to create the state of Israel. He won the Nobel Peace Prize during six years as prime minister, then abruptly went into seclusion, giving no explanation.The 78-year-old Begin was still unconscious and in serious condition several hours after being taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, said Dr. Dan Michaeli. He was paralyzed on his left side and using a respirator, Michaeli said. He said Begin had been breathing on his own when he reached the hospital.

Begin's son, Benjamin, a member of Parliament, was at his father's bedside, along with his daughters Leah and Hasia, Israel radio said. His daughter Leah had called an ambulance after her father collapsed shortly before 7 a.m. at their Tel Aviv apartment.

Begin has previously suffered several heart attacks and was hospitalized for a fractured hip last year. He once reflected on human frailty in a letter to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, also a cardiac patient.

"So what is the human heart? Simply, it is a pump," Begin wrote. "And I thought, God almighty, as long as this pump is working, a human being feels, thinks, speaks, writes, loves his family, smiles, weeps, enjoys life, gets angry, gives friendship, prays, dreams, remembers, forgets, influences other people, is influenced by other people - lives.

"But when the pump stops - no more."

Begin steered his right-wing Likud bloc to power in 1977 after the center-left Labor Party governed the country for its first 29 years. Likud remains the governing party 15 years later.

Those who feared Begin, a former guerrilla leader, as a warmonger were confounded when Sadat made his historic peace pilgrimage to Jerusalem six months after Begin took office.

Begin later signed the peace treaty with Egypt, the only Arab country to reach a settlement with Israel. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 with Sadat for reaching the accord, fostered by President Jimmy Carter.

But Begin also led Israel into its fifth and most unpopular war, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. It claimed more than 600 Jewish lives.

Begin resigned in 1983, suffering from depression because of the death of his wife, Aliza, a year earlier and Israel's involvement in Lebanon, which led to large peace demonstrations in Israel.