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Parliament Members Thank Begin For Bombing Iraqi Reactor

March 1, 1991

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel’s former prime minister, Menachem Begin, was presented today with a letter of appreciation from Parliament for his 1981 decision to bomb Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, a legislator said.

The letter, which praised Begin’s ″wisdom and courage,″ was signed by 100 members of the 120-member Parliament, or Knesset, Israel radio reported.

″With fear...we can imagine what would have happened to us without this action that led to elimination of Iraq’s nuclear development or to its postponement for another 10 years,″ the letter said.

At the time of the 1981 bombing, Israel was widely criticized by other countries, some of which reversed their opinions during the course of the Persian Gulf War.

Iraq threatened to fire chemical weapons at Israel before and during the war. It fired 39 Scud missiles at the Jewish state, all with conventional warheads. Two people were killed and about 230 wounded in the attacks.

Israeli F-16 and F-14 warplanes bombed Iraq’s French-built reactor on June 7, 1981, killing one French technician. Israel had justified the raid by claiming the reactor was meant for production of atomic weapons.

The radio said that members of the leftist political parties decided not to sign the letter. Ran Cohen of the Citizens’ Rights Movement and Charlie Biton, formerly of the Communist Party, chose to sign the letter.

Several members of the center-left Labor Party, Israel’s largest opposition group, also did not sign it, including party leader Shimon Peres. Peres reportedly opposed the reactor attack at the time.

The letter was presented to the 77-year-old Begin at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, where the former premier has been recovering slowly from a hip operation last year.

After a 30-minute meeting with Begin, legislator Yigael Hurvitz, who delivered the letter, told the radio that Begin ″expressed his opinion about the comrades, about the (1981) action itself.″

″He thanked and appreciated all those who signed the letter,″ added Hurvitz, of Begin’s right-wing Likud bloc.

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