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September 15, 2010 8:19 pm

The Sobering Words of Retired, Aging or Dying Leaders

avatar by Dovid Efune

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The Aging Communist leader; Fidel Castro. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert.

Many glanced twice this week, when headlines declaring Fidel Castro’s sympathy to the Jewish cause graced a number of news outlets. The story also stood the true test of newsworthy material by becoming a widely shared link on Facebook.

The far-from-saintly Castro has not been known in the past as being particularly friendly towards Jews or Israel, but according to testimony from Jeffrey Goldberg, a reporter for “The Atlantic” who interviewed Castro, the aging and frail 84 year old communist leader seems to be reconstituting his worldview to some small degree. The discussion followed an invitation to Cuba that was sparked by a recent article written by Goldberg on the topic of Iran, Israel and the possibility of nuclear confrontation.

It is often refreshing to hear the reflections, confessions and retrospective thoughts of retired or ageing political leaders, who with less party allegiances weighing them down, are often less restricted in revealing their real thoughts and accumulated wisdom of experience. Although they all too often come at a time when we are no longer paying attention to them, perhaps there is much to be learned from their revelations.

There is much speculation as to Castro’s intentions, but perhaps the aging man’s desire to depart this world going on record with a stance for justice and morality, may have been a motivation.

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Sometimes, as with the case of Jimmy Carter, who has exposed himself as a rabid hater of Israel in his retired life, we can catch an insightful glimpse into the allegiances that motivated a leader’s policies while in office with many of these policies still affecting us today.

It was only following his twenty year stint in the State Department that veteran negotiator Aaron David Miller compiled his widely discussed five thousand word essay entitled ‘The False Religion of Peace.’ He confesses to being an ardent follower of that ‘theology’ yet warns that there are fundamental flaws with the concept of a ‘Peace Process’ that needs to be reexamined.

Diplomatic patriarch Henry Kissinger was largely responsible for orchestrating Israel’s land for peace deal with Egypt and presented his “Gaza-Jericho First” plan in 1976 which called upon Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Jericho first in any overall peace plan with the PLO. It was this plan that was incorporated into the Oslo Agreements in 1993 which resulted in the first Israeli redeployment from the Gaza and Jericho.

Although I have not seen it documented, I have heard first hand that Kissinger declared recently at a public talk at the Park East Synagogue in New York, that it is now clear that a withdrawal to the pre 1967 borders will not bring about peace.

It is recorded that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin who suffered from depression and became notoriously reclusive in his retirement, spent his later years embroiled in deep regret over his decisions to cede Israeli territory while in office.

Although these insights are usually incomplete as it takes a certain heroic amount of intellectual honesty to publicly admit fully to misguided policies while in a position of power, nevertheless even these glimpses can provide great insight and have much contemporary value.

Wouldn’t it be valuable if we were able to extract the lessons that could be included in the honest reflections of people of experience, and apply them to our daily striving for world betterment? It would no doubt take extreme humility and moral courage, but the value of these gems would make the endeavor worthwhile.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com

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