Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has charged the Israeli government with “a desperate bid to preserve their power” in reaching an accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Shamir charged the government with acting “hastily under pressure that was self-induced.”
“My generation remembers the other occasion when peace in our time was welcomed with great enthusiasm,” he said. “This is the real tragedy — and it is a terrible thing to say — that our government may yet place its domestic interests above the national.”
Speaking before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York on Tuesday, Shamir appeared lively and in a good mood, a year and a half after his Likud government was defeated in the elections that brought Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to power.
While Shamir has since yielded his position as Likud party head in favor of a younger generation, he has been working to rally opposition to the peace accord with the PLO in Israel and now in the United States.
Shamir said he was violating his principles against criticizing Israel’s government abroad “only because my colleagues and I are convinced we are facing extraordinary circumstances.”
This distinction left one opponent of American Jewish criticism of the Israeli government unimpressed.
“That’s exactly what Peace Now said,” in justifying its criticism, said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Shamir warned that the agreement reached with the PLO “places everything we have created in Israel in great trouble. And if this is the case, it concerns every friend of Israel, every Jew, and everyone who cares.”
Shamir said that if his Likud party returns to power, the new government “will find a way to get out” from the agreement with the PLO, which he said he hoped would be “abrogated.”
‘IT IS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE’
While Rabin and others have placed the peace accord in the context of a changing world, Shamir said the changes made the return of territories and the recognition of the PLO all the less necessary.
“In the past, when we had pressure to make peace and pay for peace with territory, it was a time when the Soviet Union was still a world power.
“Our situation is far better than it was 20 or 30 years ago. The Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore and Israel is not anymore threatened by any war on the part of the Arab countries,” he said.
“We have decided to take this step without any pressure,” he said, “and it is a terrible mistake.”
For Shamir, the battle with the Arabs has been one of stamina. He did not worry about tiring from the continuing conflict.
“The moment we will get tired will be a very dangerous and tragic moment for us. The question is, who will be the first to get tired, we or the Arabs,’ he said.
“And it was crucial for us not to be the first to be tired, never to be tired.
“We have to defend ourselves, have to protect ourselves, until the Arabs come to the conclusion that through terrorism they will not get anything.”
Shamir said, “The people of Israel must do everything to secure the future of the settlements, because they safeguard the Jewish hold on our most sacred places, (which) symbolize Jewish opposition to foreign rule on our land.
“It is up to us to give every support to the settlements, so they will still be deeply entrenched and don’t have to rely on favors of people who are against their very existence. The stronger the settlements will be, the harder it will be for the Arabs and their supporters to remove them.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.