The World: Begin: A Courtly Spartan

Shortly after he was felled by a massive heart attack last March, Menachem Begin, 64, motioned his private secretary to his hospital bedside. She feared it might be his final message. Begin whispered: "Your new haircut suits you much better than the old one."

Kind words and an old-fashioned European courtliness are both part of the Begin style. So is a certain autocratic manner. There is no mistaking who runs Israel's Cabinet sessions; smoking is forbidden, aides are barred, ministers are provided with top-secret information on a need-to-know basis—and heaven help anyone who leaks to the press.

A man of spartan tastes, Begin...

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