ObituaryPM: Her voice will not fall silent

Geula Cohen, pre-state underground fighter, veteran right-wing MK, dies at 93

President Rivlin leads praise for the Etzel and Stern gang member turned politician who was vocal opponent of Israeli withdrawals from lands captured in Six Day War

Portrait of  Geula Cohen, in her home in Jerusalem. May 24, 2011.( Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Portrait of Geula Cohen, in her home in Jerusalem. May 24, 2011.( Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Geula Cohen, a pre-state underground fighter, veteran lawmaker, right-wing political activist and the mother of current Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, died late Wednesday. She was 93.

President Reuven Rivlin led tributes to Cohen, who served 19 years as an MK and won the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian honor for her contributions to Israeli society, calling her death a “national sorrow.”

“The fire that burned in Geula went out tonight,” Rivlin said, praising her as an “Israeli freedom fighter in the deepest sense of the idea, who was an inspiration to myself and all of us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that her voice “will not fall silent.”

“We will enshrine the memory of her great struggle for Israel’s freedom and her dedication and love for the Land of Israel,” he said.

Cohen was born in Tel Aviv in 1925. In 1942 she joined the underground Etzel movement fighting the British, but then later moved to the more radical Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, where she worked as a radio announcer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (R) with his mother and former minister Geula Cohen at the swearing in ceremony for the 21st Knesset, April 30, 2019. (Courtesy)

She was captured by the British in 1946 and sentenced to seven years in jail, but managed to escape a year later.

After the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 she worked as a journalist and later became active in politics, joining the Likud party and entering the Knesset in 1973.

Cohen was known for her vocal opposition to Israel giving up any of the lands it captured in the 1967 Six Day War and opposed the 1979 Camp David peace deal with Egypt that saw the Sinai returned, even though the deal was made by Menachem Begin of her Likud party.

After Camp David she broke with Begin to form the far-right Tehiya party that became a major proponent of Israeli settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

She was reelected to the Knesset several times with Tehiya joining Likud-led governments. In 1990 she served as deputy minister for communications, eventually leaving the Knesset in 1992.

She continued to advocate against any territorial withdrawal, campaigning against the Oslo Peace accords in the 1990’s and the 2005 Gaza disengagement.

Hanegbi, her son is a senior figure in Likud, currently serving as minister of regional development.

“Until her final day she fought for to keep the homeland whole, the unity of the nation and the ingathering of the exiles, but she never, for a moment, stopped being a loving and beloved mother and grandmother,” Hanegbi said. “Her loss will not only be felt in the family, but in the heart of the people she fought for and who loved her back.”

Following news of her death, tributes also came in from leaders on the political left.

“Geula Cohen was an ideological opponent, but I valued her for her steadfast adherence to her world view,” said Labor party leader Amir Peretz.

Cohen will be buried Thursday on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

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