The Begin government in Israel is confronting the Kibbutz movement with a "hostile" environment the extent of which the movement has never before experienced in its 70-year history, Eli Zamir, general secretary of the United Kibbutz Movement (UKM), said yesterday.
Speaking to about 25 people over breakfast at Dudley House, Zamir, who represents 70,000 members from about 166 of the communal settlements, said that in order to survive, the kibbutz movement requires a social, political, and economic climate that Begin's coalition does not provide. Under all the governments of the Labor party, which was in power for almost 30 years until Begin was elected in 1977, that climate existed, he added.
Gary Bennett, the U.S. coordinator for UKM who was also at the breakfast, said that "hostile is a mild word" for the government's attitude toward the kibbutzim. There is a "tremendous struggle" taking place in the country between the advocates of two "diametrically opposed" views of what Israeli society should be like, he added.
As an example of Begin's hostile attitude, Bennett said the government had attempted to protray kibbutz members as "millionaires" by sponsoring advertisements showing the construction of a kibbutz swimming pool last month. The advertisements did not mention the fact that the pool was for an entire community and not only one family, he added.