Relating the story of the establishment of the Dimona reactor, which the president referred to as "the textile factory," Peres described then Finance Minister Levi Eshkol's reaction to the plan.
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"He showed much interest and at the end of the conversation told me: 'It's good you came and got into all the details. I give you my promise you won't see one dime out of me.'"
The president also recounted the events surrounding the decision to launch Operation Entebbe in 1976. "The chances of rescuing 101 Jewish hostages 4,000 kilometers away seemed miniscule," he recounted.
"The conclusion was that we should comply with the demands to release the terrorists but I thought this should not be done and was sure there was a way to get them home."
Peres with hosts Yossi and Guri Alfi (Photo: Roni Shizer, Flash 90)
Peres shared with the audience his conversation with then Air Force commander Benny Peled in which he asked Peled if a rescue mission at such a distance was possible.
"A daring group of young officers emerged, consisting of, among others, Yoni Netanyahu, Yekutiel Adam and Dan Shomron. They were called 'The Fantasy Headquarters.' No one believed it was possible. They worked day and night studying the aerial map between Israel and Entebbe."
Peres said that at one point the government started exploring the possibility of meeting the terrorists' demands. "(Prime Minister) Yitzhak Rabin was of the opinion that the chances of a rescue operation were not high, that it was irresponsible to wait and that the terrorists' demands should be met," Peres said.
'I did not sleep a wink for a whole week' (Photo: Roni Shizer, Flash 90)
He noted that he had promised Uganda's President Idi Amin the Nobel Prize if he helped save the Jews and recalled spending half a night trying to persuade then IDF Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur to launch a rescue operation. "I explained to him that if we succeed, world respect for Israel would skyrocket and if we fail we would look ridiculous, but surrendering would make us appear weak."
The president said that both Gur and Prime Minister Rabin became convinced an operation should be launched on Thursday "when the ultimatum deadline had come and gone and nothing happened."
"Our aircraft departed on Friday morning. To save time I decided to schedule the take-off for the morning. Yitzhak agreed and we decided that we would make it appear to the outside world that Israel was meeting the terrorists' demands. I did not sleep a wink that week.
"The responsibility was huge and I knew that should anything go wrong I was the fingers would be pointed to." He noted that when he was told of Yoni Netanyahu's death "It was perhaps the first time I cried."
Peres concluded his words saying "I think it was one of the most unforgettable chapters in our history, a very special, dangerous and precise operation carried out by the bravest of men."
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