DEAR MR. BEGIN:
Would you please not come to Washington?
Would you please go home?
You will excuse this bluntness, but everything about you suggests that you do not take hints.
The president of the United States has been trying to tell you that he would rather not receive you as a guest of the nation at this time. You come, it pains friends of Israel to say, with blood on your hands. Earlier this week, the White House and State Department suggested that your appointment in the Oval Office was "tentative" -- even though your visit was arranged some time ago.
You were invited in conjunction with your appearance at the United Nations disarmament session. It is not a subject on which we particularly wish to hear you. Your credibilty on any subject is, as a matter of fact, low. Too many remember your early assurance that Israeli troops would stop their advance 25 miles into Lebanon.
We are not in a mood right now to hear your protestations about Israel's security. We know your concerns. They are real. Your people have not known a day's peace since you founded, with our fervent blessings, the State of Israel. But does Israel's security have to be purchased by the slaughter of innocents? We don't think so.
You are properly concerned with the safety of Israel. We have demonstrated our concern, perhaps not always so strongly as you would have us do, over the years since your founding. But there is something else that comes to us from our founders. It is what Thomas Jefferson called "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind."
You ignored that when you bombed Beirut, Sidon and Tyre. We have been seeing every night pictures of wounded babies and old men. We read about people standing outside devastated apartment buildings, wearing masks against the stench of corpses, waiting to go in to claim their dead. They were a threat to you?
Yes, we know, your planes dropped leaflets before they dropped the bombs. But why did you have to bomb their cities at all? People in apartment buildings may be PLO sympathizers or even devoted adherents of Yasser Arafat. But they were unarmed civilians. In this country, we have a low threshhold on indiscriminate civilian bombings. You were trying to save your own troops. We understand that. We are, after all, the country that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to spare ourselves the casualties that would inevitably have resulted from invasion. But grant us that we were up against a mighty, if weakened, war machine and a totally mobilized nation. You were punishing a wretched country that reluctantly shelters factions which, while hostile to you, could not wipe you off the face of the earth, however much they might want to.
Please don't tell us that the figures given by the Lebanese of 9,000 civilian dead are exaggerated. Please don't tell us that you know that there are considerably less than 300,000 homeless people. In the first place, how do you know? In the second, it is already too many.
Did you not notice that we are just coming out of the Falkland Islands experience? Our stand, after a month of "neutrality," was finally taken on the grounds that military aggression cannot be justified. The question of proportion was involved there, too. The idea of killing half as many troops to protect the rights of 1,800 Falkland Islanders struck many as excessive. But we dug in on the principle of the rights of sovereign nations not to be invaded. Why do you think it would not apply in your case? Or don't you care?
To be sure, certain elements in our government and press took an indulgent view of your aggression. Little from the traveling party of the president suggested much more than annoyance. When asked in London if there was any thought of cutting off military aid, which would have been the clearest expression of disapproval, the secretary of state said, "No action is being taken to terminate arms shipments."
It is true that you heard gleeful sounds over the geopolitical pluses: two Soviet clients, Syria and the PLO, being clobbered; the missiles and tanks we provided you demonstrably superior to those which the Soviets gave them. Wonderful.
You have heard also the palaver about the "new opportunities for peace" that will be found in the rubble. Why would the Arabs, particularly the Palestinian Arabs who live on your West Bank, feel more kindly toward you after what you have visited on their brothers and sisters in Lebanon?
Why don't you go home and think about that for a while? Why don't you say you are sorry? Why don't you tell us what kind of a country you are becoming? Do you think that you are making of the Palestinians the Jews of this century, a people without a home?
Please, right now do not speak to us about the Holocaust. We remembered it, even before you reminded us.
We are told you insist on coming because if you cancelled, people would think you had something to be ashamed of. In our opinion, you do.