At 9 a.m. on June 27, 1976, 228 passengers boarded Air France flight 139 from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel to Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris, with a stopover in Greece. After takeoff from Athens, four Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked the plane. The plane was diverted to the warm welcome of Ugandan despot Idi Amin in Entebbe. Soon afterward, the hijackers freed the French crew and non-Jewish passengers while retaining 105 Jewish and Israeli hostages.
The hijackers had the stated objective to free 40 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel, along with 13 other prisoners held in four other countries, in exchange for the hostages. They threatened to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met. The threat led to the planning of a rescue operation including preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan military troops, if all attempts at a diplomatic solution failed.
On July 4, 1976, as the United States observed its bicentennial year with coast-to-coast celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Operation Entebbe took place. Israeli transport planes carrying 100 commandos had flown over 2,500 miles to Uganda for the rescue operation. A 29-man crack commando unit led by Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu had been assembled for the actual assault and rescue attempt.
The entire operation, which took place at night, lasted 53 minutes. All the hijackers, three hostages, and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed. One hundred and two hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and only one, the unit commander; Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu was killed. The operation at Entebbe, which had the military codename “Operation Thunderbolt,” was renamed officially by the government of Israel as “Operation Yonatan” in memory of the unit’s leader. Thirty years of age and a former student at Harvard University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yonatan was a brilliant military commander and tactician. He was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu the current Prime Minister of Israel.
As a result of the operation, the United States military developed rescue teams modeled on the Entebbe rescue. One notable attempt to imitate it was “Operation Eagle Claw,” a failed rescue of 53 American embassy personnel held hostage in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis.
The bicentennial year was also an election year.
On November 2, 1976, America elected the relatively unknown former governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate, over the incumbent President Gerald Ford the Republican candidate. Becoming president upon Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, Ford thus became the only sitting president who had never been elected to national office. Carter narrowly won the election, becoming the first president elected from the Deep South since Zachary Taylor in 1848.
In a little known political oddity, on December 10, 1976, the first F-15 fighter aircraft arrived in Israel from the United States. The fact that they landed in Israel on a Friday evening, after the start of the Sabbath, caused a political crisis prompting the religious parties in the Knesset to topple the first Yitzhak Rabin government.
In 1977 David Horowitz was back in the Holy Land. The occasion marked a conference of the World Federation of Jewish Journalists held in the capital of Israel.
The group also met with Israel’s President Ephraim Katzir, himself a world-renowned scientist, during a visit to the stately presidential mansion in Jerusalem. Horowitz later had a brief private meeting with Katzir, updating him on the state of UN affairs.
Following the conference, David remained in Israel and as usual, scheduled a busy agenda. Among many appointments were meetings with leaders of the “Friends of Converts in Israel,” a Tel Aviv based organization, and with authors, Dr. Israel Ben Zeev and Mordecai Alfanderi, He was also the guest of the noted newspaperman, Moshe Ben Shachar, World Union Press correspondent in Israel.
David also made a quick trip to Safad and Biria in the Galilee to visit his devoted friends, Esther and Eliezer Tritto and family, who were among the many former Italian Catholics who had embraced the Torah faith and migrated to Israel.
When Jimmy Carter was sworn in as our 39th President on January 20, 1977, the time appeared ripe for a new peace initiative. Carter, a deeply religious man, felt a connection to the Holy Land and he believed he could do what all others had failed to accomplish-to bring peace to the Middle East. Immediately after taking office, he became actively involved in Middle Eastern politics.
In the light of recent U.S. State Department maneuverings taken by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance regarding Israel, correspondent David Horowitz was inspired to write directly to the new president.
Horowitz wrote a personal letter to President Jimmy Carter dated February 22, 1977.
In the lengthy message, David congratulated Carter on his election win and his selection of Mr. Andrew Young as the White House spokesman at the United Nations. He mentioned the fact that both President Carter and Mr. Young were blessed with a strong biblical background, the president as a Sunday school teacher and Mr. Young as a minister.
Moving directly to the main point of the letter, David stated: “Since you and Mr. Young, as contrasted with so many others in government, firmly believe in the biblical blueprint and in its prophecies, I would like to set forth as a reminder some of the promises made in the Bible with respect to the resurrection of Israel in her ancient homeland. You are undoubtedly familiar with them.”
After mentioning a recent UN column that he had written regarding Ambassador Young’s first appearance at the UN, Horowitz continued:
“Indeed, President Carter, you and I know that the biblical mandate for Israel’s presence in the land of the Prophets, according to the boundaries set forth by our Creator, is absolute and beyond dispute. So is the mandate adjudicating the borders of Israel’s cousins, the Arabs.
The children of Esau and Ishmael were allotted and blessed with vast territories to the east and south of the land of Canaan, territories that the Bible holds inviolate. Thus, the borders of the territories for all the children of Abraham, including the Arabs, were clearly defined in the biblical blueprint. But the promise relative to the deed to Palestine as “an everlasting possession,” was passed down from Abraham to Isaac and then only to Jacob-Israel.”
After quoting key verses to support this position, Horowitz continued his appeal: “My dear President Carter, as you must certainly be aware, all the biblical Prophets predicted the return of the children of Israel to their homeland. That we have lived to see this happen in our lifetime is proof of the veracity of these prophecies. This is exactly what we have seen happen in the reborn State of Israel where, since the end of World War II, the Hitlerian escapees have been and are still being healed.
The present-day descendants of Ishmael and Esau, Israel’s cousins, the Arabs, already possess the vast territories promised them in the Bible. It might be wise for them not to begrudge their kin, the children of Jacob, their very tiny little land but to welcome them back to the Holy Land and live in peaceful coexistence with them to the benefit of the entire crescent region.”
Mentioning what he had witnessed at the UN during his thirty years of coverage, Horowitz stated that it was clear to him that a higher power was at work in the affairs of men and nations. Citing Israel as the best proof of this, he said: “we are all witnesses.”
The fearless writer then summed up his message to the new President: “Surely it is this higher power that placed you, Jimmy Carter, a man of spirit and justice, into the most exalted office in the world. Why did this happen at this critical period in mankind’s history? The answer to this will have to become manifest in tests and challenges that will face the White House. As Harry Truman, in 1948, stood up against his own advisors in the State Department and shocked the world by his recognition of Israel it is my belief that Jimmy Carter will likewise do and follow the dictates of his own heart with what he thinks is right in the way of God’s justice and ordained plan.”
The three-page letter to President Carter read like the oracle of a modern-day prophet and it was not the first time that David Horowitz was moved to challenge a sitting president to “do what is right” regarding the biblical blueprint.
The first was Harry Truman himself, who was the first leader among the nations to formally recognize the nation of Israel reborn. The strange story of the 1948 presidential election and Truman’s decision that electrified the world was the subject of a previous article titled: “When Prophecy Echoed In The White House.”
Like another key piece in the puzzle, on May 17, 1977, The Likud Party, led by Menachem Begin, won the election in Israel, ending almost 30 years of rule by the left-wing alignment and its predecessor, Mapai.
Whatever forces might indeed be at work in the affairs of men and nations, the bombshell event that was to follow later in the year could only be described as historic and stunning. David Horowitz would refer to it as “a touch of the messianic.”
Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.
This post is the thirtieth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.