Brig.-Gen. Amatzia "Patsi" Chen, former commander of Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz in the legendary Shaked Commando Unit, says no one can compare to Ketzaleh in bravery, proven accomplishments, integrity, and sacrifice for the Land of Israel. Patsi remembers the words Ketzaleh said to him when Ketzaleh was bleeding heavily from severe wounds. Patsi tells Ketzaleh that he must strive to be Prime Minister.
This article originally appeared in BeSheva magazine
Translation by Rochel Sylvetsky
He calls Ketzaleh “my son,” and though years have passed since that fateful day during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he gets emotional when telling the story of the military operation that ended with the almost fatal injury to Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz, now Chairman of the Ichud Leumi (National Union) party. Brig.-Gen. Amatzia Chen, known as Patsi, was Ketzaleh’s commander in the legendary Shaked Commando Unit, and afterwards in the elite force of Shaked’s officers that Patsi formed in the middle of the war. During a daring raid in which the small force, only 12 fighters strong, took on over 130 Egyptian commandos, an RPG scored a direct hit on one of the Shaked troop carriers—the one Ketzaleh and his closest friends were in.
Photo: Sasson Tamir
Patsi will never forget what Ketzaleh said to him during those blood drenched moments of fire and smoke. He recalls: “We had no medic and few medical supplies, but we did our best to help the wounded, and especially Ketzaleh, who was literally cut in two except for a part of his pelvis which somehow held his body together. It was obvious that without a helicopter to evacuate him, his chances of survival were nil, so I requested the command post to send one. ‘Negative’, was the answer I received from the assistant division commander, Yaakov Even, later promoted to General. ‘The air force refuses to send one because you are too close to the battlefront,' they said. For me, this was a moment that was just too much to bear.”
However, just minutes later the voice on the microphone changed to the voice of the division commander, Ariel Sharon, who informed Patsi that a helicopter would be landing within minutes to evacuate the wounded. “I went over to Ketzaleh, who was on the verge of losing consciousness, and said: ‘Ketzaleh, my son, in five minutes a helicopter will be here and with the help of G-d, you will be saved.’” And how did he respond? Ketzaleh, without any blood left in his body and with the last bit of strength he had, said to me: “Patsi, if I have lived to hear you say the words ‘with the help of G-d,’ that was the divine reason behind my being wounded.’”
When Patsi combines his memories of Ketzaleh's idealism and strength, with the other character traits he sees in his old friend from the commando force, it is clear to him where Ketzaleh really belongs: “These abilities are enough to make him a fitting Prime Minister. Add to that his superior intelligence, pleasant personality and willingness to sacrifice himself, especially in comparison with the worthless people who created the problems we face and then have the audacity to claim they can solve them,” alluding to the political leaders we have today.
Brig.-Gen. Amatzia "Patzi" Chen
Patsi continues: “The rostrum of top political figures today is personally responsible for the problems they are asking the voters to let them solve. It’s just incredible. They were the cause of the situation we face and won’t admit their failure. Those who cannot own up to their mistakes cannot possibly avoid repeating them in the future. The way things stand, even a mediocre person would be an improvement on the three leading politicians of today, let alone Ketzaleh, whom I recognized as a true leader from way back during his army service."
"Ketzaleh is one of those people who doesn’t just talk, he really does things - the settlement of Samaria and the blossoming garden that was uprooted in Gaza are his accomplishments. That’s what one should be able to expect from a leader. We are talking here about a man of action, and not just any action, but those accomplishments that are critical to ensure our continued presence in the Land of Israel.”
When Patsi, who is now retired from the IDF and lives in Carmei Yosef located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, heard that his old friend is the head of a party running for Knesset, he knew who he was going to support in the upcoming elections. That, however, was not enough for him. Without hesitation, Patsi called Ketzaleh and said: "You should aim already now to be Prime Minister.” No less.
Video: Who is Ketzaleh?
“If we go by Ketzaleh's track record, we are talking about a Zionistic, honest leader, whose entire adult life has been devoted to strengthening the State of Israel as opposed to the more common type of politician here - that is, those whose own interests are their real concern. I am talking about a man whose ability overshadows all the existing contenders for leadership positions,” he adds to explain his support.
Patsi feels that his fellow commando officer has the necessary charisma to lead a ruling party: “People are drawn to Ketzaleh’s charisma. That’s what happened in Judea and Samaria where people followed him because only a man of faith like him, who believes in the ideals he espouses and has the self confidence to act upon them, can be a real leader, in contrast to the other members of the political echelons around us. They may even be good people, but because they have no backbone, they join the system and soon drown in the general political morass. This kind of thing won’t affect Ketzaleh at all, because he is a man of faith, diligence and real integrity, and that is why I want him part of the next government.”
As a longtime observer of events, Patsi has a great deal to say about the behavior of Israel’s politicians. He points out what he considers a serious flaw: “The biggest problem facing Israel is the lack of personal accountability. After every disaster, a statutory committee of inquiry is created, but its conclusions are irrelevant except for ascribing personal responsibility to one person. No one realizes that blaming someone for a specific incident leaves a vacuum in personal responsibility that is not filled until another disaster follows the first."
The above failure in leadership is one that Patsi feels the Ichud Leumi (National Union) party will be able to change. “I know Ketzaleh and Uri [Ariel] really well, and I am convinced that because personal political gain does not interest them in the slightest, they can bring about a change that will result in everyone’s accepting responsibility at each level. This will be a real revolution in the quality of government that our elected officials deliver. Instead of our serving them, they will start serving the public.”
Patsi is furious at the pursuit of honor and personal gain that characterizes Israel’s top leadership today. “The most blatant examples of people whose own interests dominate their actions are Olmert, Barak, Livni and their friends. Someone who can change this and triple - at the very least - the present effectiveness of Israel’s policies is a true leader who sees the good of the state as his primary goal, before his own personal benefit. Uri Ariel, Arye Eldad and Ketzaleh [the three top candidates on the Ichud HaLeumi list] are dedicated to ideas, not to themselves.”
The degeneration of integrity of Israel’s politicians, according to Patsi, is what really led to the Oslo Agreement catastrophe that befell the citizens of Israel. “The national steadfastness that was attained by the early 80’s gave the political leaders, whose personal gain came first, an overdose of confidence to the point that they felt they could place vital national interests on the diplomatic negotiating table in pursuit of their own political theories. They caused a terrible split with those who love this country. In the end they also brought about the Oslo Agreement, the Hamas, Hizballah and PLO—these are all their creations for which they should hide their heads in shame.”
In closing, Patsi points to an advantage that Ketzaleh's party has over the others: “There is an albatross around the neck of every other political leader in Israel, and that is their track record in the political and foreign affairs developments of recent years. Bibi [Netanyahu], for example, handed over Hevron to the Arabs and opened the Western Wall tunnels without checking that the army was prepared for the consequences. These things are ingrained in his record. [The Labor party's] Ehud Barak initiated the fleeing from Lebanon that brought the Second Intifada upon us and all the ensuing troubles. [The Kadima party's] Tzipi Livni is directly responsible for the public relations failure of the last war, and there is no way to forgive or atone for that."
In the Ichud Leumi party, the candidates have a clean slate. Ketzaleh, aside from his personal traits, is free of these blemishes and brings with him a great love of the Land of Israel and responsibility to it and its citizens. What more does a citizen like me need?”