By Gil Ronen
Brig. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Pundak is celebrating his hundredth birthday. Pundak was the commander of the 53rd Battalion of the Givati Brigade in the War of Independence and went on to supervise the establishment of the Armored Corps. He was also Ambassador in Tanzania and a founder of Arad.
In an interview on IDF Radio, Pundak confirmed that forces under his command razed Arab villages in 1948. “My conscience is at ease with that, because if we hadn’t done so, then there would be no state by now. There would be a million more Arabs,” he said.
Asked why he still finds it so important to lecture to soldiers, at his advanced age, he explained: “Just like in 1948, the country is in a state of danger – and if the Jews do not fight as we did in the War of Independence, the state is in danger.” He predicted that if a war breaks out again, Jews will be capable of the same kind of self-sacrifice as in 1948.
“When there is a war, people unite,” he explained. “Afterward, they form parties and become divided.”
He spoke with pain of the 145 soldiers who were killed under his command over the years, and said that if they woke up miraculously and saw the divided country of today, “they would run back to their graves.”
And yet, when asked if he feels proud of his country, he said that his pride runs “as high as the rooftop.”
Pundak, who was the governor of Gaza in the early 1970s, said that the credit that is usually given to Ariel Sharon for stopping Arab terror in Gaza in 1971 is mistaken. He said that Sharon was an unnecessarily cruel commander who once said at a meeting with officers that he would offer champagne to whoever killed an enemy fighter – and whoever brings him a wounded enemy “will drink soda.”
He said: “I told him, ‘You are not my commander, I am not coming to your meetings.’”