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Shmuel Katz, 93, Knesset Member, Author of Jabotinsky Bio

May 22, 2008 By:
Elliot Jager, Jewish Exponent Feature
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Shmuel Katz

Shmuel Katz, believed to be the last surviving member of Israel's first Knesset, died May 9 at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital. He was 93.

Katz was one of the last remaining links to the Zionist Revisionist icon, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and himself a towering figure and a mighty pen of the Zionist Right.

Among the mourners at the Hayarkon Cemetery in Petach Tikva were Likud Party chair and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and former defense minister Moshe Arens.

Katz was born in South Africa in 1914 and first came to Israel in 1936, joining the Irgun, the underground militia of the Zionist right.

Jabotinsky sent him to London in 1939 to represent the Revisionist Zionist movement. He soon found himself virtually stranded after Jabotinsky died suddenly in upstate New York in 1940 while campaigning for the creation of a Jewish army to fight against Hitler. Katz subsequently made a living as a journalist, working for a number of London newspapers while also founding a Zionist Revisionist weekly.

In 1946, he managed to return to Palestine and joined the Irgun High Command during the revolt against Britain. He was the movement's de facto foreign minister and its last Jerusalem-area commander prior to statehood as the Irgun fought alongside the Haganah in the fighting against Arab gangs during the War of Independence.

Katz was elected to the First Knesset on the Herut list led by Menachem Begin. He is believed to have been the last surviving member of that First Knesset. A Knesset honor guard placed a wreath on his grave.

Highly principled and often uncompromising, he quarreled with Begin, and quit politics and established a publishing house.

After the Six-Day War, he became a leader of the Land of Israel movement. When the Likud Party won the 1977 elections and broke Labor's stranglehold on Israeli politics, the newly elected Prime Minister Begin asked Katz to serve as his adviser on information, tasked with explaining the new government's position to a hostile media and an unfriendly Carter administration.

But Katz soon came to feel that Begin was too accommodating in the face of U.S. pressure, and in January 1978 left the government over its stand during peace negotiations with Egypt because he opposed the notion of land for peace.

A prolific writer, essayist and historian, Katz had a regular column in The Jerusalem Postfor many years.

Among his most important books are Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky; Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine; and The Aaronsohn Saga, about the Nili spy ring, whose English edition was published late last year.

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