Shmuel Katz, who was a close adviser to Menachem Begin, Israel’s prime minister in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but who later became a vociferous opponent of Begin’s peace efforts with Egypt and the Palestinians, died on Friday in Tel Aviv. He was 93.
The death was confirmed by Mr. Katz’s nephew, Leonard Blieden.
Mr. Katz and Begin became comrades in arms in the 1940s when both rose to leadership positions in the Irgun, the right-wing underground militia that battled the British Mandatory government of Palestine and later Arab forces in Israel’s 1948 war for independence.
Labeled by some historians as a terrorist organization, the Irgun sometimes engaged in seemingly fratricidal conflicts with the socialist Zionist movement headed by David Ben-Gurion, who later became Israel’s first prime minister.
In June 1948, Mr. Katz helped organize the voyage of the cargo ship Altalena, which was carrying weapons and Irgun fighters to Israel when it was sunk off Tel Aviv by the newly formed Israel Defense Forces.
In May 1977, Begin, the longtime leader of the Herut Party, was elected prime minister of Israel’s first right-wing government in 29 years; Herut later merged with the Likud bloc. Begin chose Mr. Katz as his adviser for information abroad and sent him to several countries, including to the United States for meetings with President Carter, to counter perceptions that Begin was a wild-eyed terrorist and reactionary.
But Mr. Katz had resigned to protest Israeli concessions by the time Mr. Carter brought Begin and Sadat together at Camp David in September 1979; there, they signed a treaty returning Sinai to Egypt and calling for Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. In June 1979, Begin was re-elected to a 13th term as chairman of Herut, by a vote of 1,340 to 8. The 8 votes went to Mr. Katz. (*)
In Mr. Katz’s view, peace with the Arabs was illusory; in his view, Judea and Samaria, the biblical names for much of the West Bank, should be annexed as part of the “land of Israel,” and pressure from Washington could be ignored. It was a position Mr. Katz took in many books and opinion articles that he wrote in the years after he left the government.
Samuel Katz, the son of Alexander and Luba Katz, was born in Johannesburg on Dec. 9, 1914. He moved to Palestine in 1936, changed his first name and soon joined the Irgun. For several years, he was secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of the founders of the Irgun.
Among Mr. Katz’s books are “Jabo,” a biography of Mr. Jabotinsky; “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine,” about the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict and what Mr. Katz considered the deep connections between his nation and the biblical land of Israel; and “The Aaronsohn Saga,” an account of a Jewish spy ring that worked for the British against the Ottoman Turks.
Mr. Katz is survived by a son, Yuval.
One of those eight votes was mine.