'Begin Aided Argentina During Falklands War to Avenge the British'

According to a new book cited by the U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph, former premier armed struggling Argentinean junta with air to air missiles and missile alert systems.

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin agreed to arm Argentina's military junta during the Falklands War in order to avenge its crackdown on the Irgun during the British mandate of Palestine, the Telegraph reported on Thursday.

Citing a new Argentinean book called "Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina During the Dictatorship (1976/1983)," the report claimed Israel agreed in 1982 to provide the Argentinean military junta with air to air missiles, missile radar alert systems, fuel tanks for fighter bombers as well as gas masks.

Menachem Begin in 1979.Credit: AP

The arms shipments were labeled as destined to arrive in Peru, where they were then safely transferred to Argentina, then engaged in battle with the U.K. over control of the Falkland Islands.

A possible hint for Begin's motivation for the alleged arms deal was given in an interview presented in the book with former Israeli weapons' salesman Israel Lotersztain in which he describes a key meeting with former PM Begin.

According to Lotersztain's account, Begin disrupted the salesmen's description of Argentina's situation in face of British attacks, reportedly saying: "You've come to talk badly about the British. Is this going to be used to kill the English? Kadima [go ahead]."

"Dov [Gruner] up there is going to be happy with the decision. Obviously, it must all be done perfectly," Begin reportedly said, referring to Irgun fighter and close friend Dov Gruner who was executed by British Mandate officials in 1947.

Explaining the former premier's willingness to aid the Argentinean cause, Lotersztain told the book's author Hernan Dobry that Begin "hated the English above all; everyone had forgotten the British occupation, but not him."

Supporting Lotersztain's claims, the book also cited Jaime Weinstein, a reported colleague of his, as saying that Begin "did all that was possible to help Argentina, selling her weapons during the Malvinas [the Argentine name for the Falklands] conflict."

"The Jewish state was not only willing to supply the government of Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri in everything it needed but was also proactive in advising and conveying their experiences in combat," the book's author was quoted by the Telegraphas saying.