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Proud of Soviet Absorption, Shamir Identifies with Irish Hero

July 28, 1998
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Time has not mellowed former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Shamir believes that his proudest achievement was overseeing the immigration of Soviet Jewry during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Interviewed by the London Daily Telegraph, Shamir said he “was happy every day in this period. We need to bring here 10 million Jewish people.”

But he lamented that Israel could not complete the process of bringing Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel “because of the Oslo accords.

“We don’t have sufficient space for these people, and the only place we can absorb them is in Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to the West Bank.

The West Bank is “not important for the Palestinians and the Arabs,” he added. “They are part of the Arab nation. They can live in Jordan or other Arab countries.”

Shamir had no regrets about his actions while serving with the militant Stern Gang during the final years of British Mandatory Palestine.

Nor did he repent for the 1944 assassination by members of the Stern Gang of Lord Moyne, Britain’s senior Middle East official.

“Of course, he was not killed by us because of his views, but because of what he represented,” said Shamir.

The former premier revealed that one of the great inspirations in his life was Michael Collins, the early-20th-century leader of the Irish Republican Army in Ireland’s fight for independence from British rule.

Shamir said he admired Collins’ personal courage, studied his tactics and adopted the nom de guerre “Michael” in his honor.

While working for the Israeli foreign intelligence service in Europe during the 1960s, Shamir said, he was surprised that Irish ministers were not impressed when he told them Collins was his hero.

“What impressed them more was their whiskey,” he said.

Asked how he felt when the IRA blew up a hotel in Brighton, England, where then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was overtly pro-Israel, and the entire British Cabinet was staying in 1984, Shamir said he was “neutral.”

“It’s a question of the battle for freedom,” he added.

Shamir, now 83, declared he was “very lonely” because he was the “only one of my friends left.”

Did he have any regrets?

“Of course, I have a deep sense of self-criticism,” he said. “Very often I ask myself, `Is my way the best way?’

“But I can say it was a good life. It was not a wasted life. I did something that was important for me and for other people.”

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