As U.S.-Israel tensions climb to unfamiliar heights, they recall a prior round of tensions nearly thirty years ago, when Menachem Begin and Ronald Reagan were in charge. In contrast to Binyamin Netanyahu's repeated apologies, Begin adopted a quite different approach.
The sequence of events started with a statement from Syrian dictator Hafiz al-Asad that he would not make peace with Israel "even in a hundred years," Begin responded by making the Golan Heights part of Israel, terminating the military administration that had been governing that territory from the time Israeli forces seized it from Syria in 1967. Legislation to this effect easily passed Israel's parliament on Dec. 14, 1981.
This move came, however, just two weeks after the signing of a U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation Agreement, prompting much irritation in Washington. At the initiative of Secretary of State Alexander Haig, the U.S. government suspended that just-signed agreement. One day later, on Dec. 20, Begin summoned Samuel Lewis, the U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv, for a dressing-down.