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How I met Shalom Cohen


Rotating party members in the Knesset
Uri Avnery Social activist
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There was an arrangement that during the term Shalom would change places with Amnon Zichroni. When we compiled the list the second time, we had a problem: the first time I had been in first place, Shalom Cohen was in second place, and it had remained that way for the second time, too. Meanwhile, Amnon Zichroni had been so prominent and had played a major role in our faction so that it was really absurd not to put him in second place. But it was impossible to overthrow Shalom Cohen so we agreed that at mid-term there would be a rotation: Shalom Cohen would resign, and Amnon Zichroni would come in, and we would all do this willingly. And so Shalom Cohen came in. He was quite a good member of Knesset, not less than average, let's say. We shared speeches. One for him, one for me. But from the beginning there were some matters of discord. I said: 'Let's divide the issues: you talk about the Arab issue and I will speak…' He said: 'I don't want to. What, because I'm Mizrahi?'  We didn't yet use the word 'Mizrahi'. And he insisted that he would speak about internal affairs, and I would speak about Arab affairs. And so it was. In light of what happened later, it was always rather funny when I remember it. And I said: 'Of course, all Mizrahi problem' - as they called it then - 'Take it, you live with it'.  He was terribly insulted, and didn't want it by any means. That he should speak for the Edot HaMizrach community? It was as if he was being defiled, I think, I don't know. And when we split up, then he raised this flag, as if of the Edot HaMizrach community… so we were both in the Knesset.

Then began the matter of the settlements. I think we talked about Hebron, about Kiryat Arba. We are returning to the historical timetable. On the eve of the following election, when we were already in the middle of an election campaign…

[Q] What about the split on the faction?

We were elected at the end of 1969, the next elections were at the end of 1973. In the middle there should have been a rotation between Shalom Cohen and Amnon Zichroni. I always skip over this because I have no desire to remember it.

והיה הסכם שבאמצע הקדנציה שלום כהן יתחלף באמנון זכרוני. כשהרכבנו את הרשימה לפעם השנייה, הייתה לנו בעיה: בפעם הראשונה אני הייתי מקום ראשון, שלום כהן מקום השני, וזה נשאר ככה גם בפעם השנייה. בינתיים אמנון זכרוני כל כך התבלט ומילא תפקיד כל כך מרכזי בסיעה שלנו, שזה היה באמת אבסורד שלא לשים אותו במקום השני. אבל אי-אפשר היה להדיח את שלום כהן אז הסכמנו שבאמצע תקופת הכהונה תהיה רוטציה: שלום כהן יתפטר, ואמנון זכרוני ייכנס, ועם זה כולנו נהיה טובי לב וזה ושלום כהן נכנס. היה חבר כנסת לא רע, לא פחות מהממוצע נגיד. והתחלקנו בנאומים. אחד-אחד. ומהתחלה היו כמה דברים קצת צורמים. אני אמרתי "בואו נחלק בינינו את הנושאים: אתה תדבר על הנושא הערבי ואני אדבר”.. אז הוא אמר: "לא רוצה, מה, אני מזרחי?" עוד לא אמרו "מזרחי", לא הייתה המילה הזאת. ועמד על כך שהוא ידבר על ענייני פנים, ואני אדבר על ענייני ערבים. וכך היה. לאור מה שקרה אחר כך, זה היה קצת, תמיד קצת מצחיק אותי הזיכרון הזה. ואמרתי כמובן, כל הבעיה הזאת של "עדות המזרח" כפי שקראו לזה אז, "קבל לידיך, אתה חי בזה”. הוא נעלב נורא, לא רצה בשום פנים. שהוא ידבר לעדות המזרח? זה כאילו מכתים אותו אני חושב, לא יודע. וכשהתפלגנו אז הוא הרים את הדגל הזה שעדות המזרח כאילו…. אז היינו בכנסת שנינו. ואז התחיל העניין של ההתנחלות. דיברנו נדמה לי על חברון, על קריית ארבע. אנחנו נכנסים בחזרה ללוח הזמנים ההיסטורי. ערב הבחירות שלאחר מכן, כשכולנו היינו כבר באמצע מערכת בחירות, אנחנו נבחרנו בסוף 69', הבחירות הבאות היו בסוף 73'. באמצע הייתה צריכה להיות הרוטציה בין שלום כהן ואמנון זכרוני. אני מדלג על זה תמיד מפני שאין לי חשק להיזכר בזה.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Hebron, Shalom Cohen, Amnon Zichroni

Duration: 4 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017