Remembering Shamir


Yitzhak Shamir drew praise from friends and former rivals, and their statements had a common theme: His steadfastness.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tribute at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday started with a memory:


One day, as he sat here in the Prime Minister’s office, a delegation of Likud members arrived and they sought to advance the candidacy of one of our members for a certain post. This was in the afternoon. Yitzhak Shamir welcomed them, saw a large group in the middle of the day and told them ‘What are you doing here? Go to work.’ This says everything about the man – blunt, a man of truth, simple, direct and, of course, with great inner strength.

Yitzhak Shamir was from the generation of giants that established the State of Israel. He dedicated his life and all his might to ensuring the existence of the state, the freedom of the Jewish People, the security of Israel’s citizens and the ingathering of the exiles.

It is important to know that Shamir had a decisive role in directing hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union to the Land of Israel. He worked urgently with the American administration in order to ensure that the first transit station would be in the Land of Israel, in the State of Israel. He said, ‘Come here first. Choose after you have seen the choice here’ – and there is no doubt that with this stubbornness, he changed the fate of the country because, to a large extent, he made sure that this welcome immigration, with all its strength, came here.  And we see that he was right, that the decisive majority stayed here.

He was also responsible for the immigration of 15,000 Jews from Ethiopia in one operation, which also expressed his deep commitment to the Zionist idea, to the Jewish future, and he was, of course, very forthright in his approach to the diplomatic issue.  He went to Madrid, but he knew how to utilize his strength and his ideological resolve regarding the Land of Israel. He also knew to go toward the peace process – I attended that conference.  I saw his actions and his decisions – he was very sagacious. I think he was a man who really saw the good of the country as he understood it and acted for the good of the country as he understood it.

Today we have lost a true Jewish patriot and one of the Jewish People’s solid leaders. He may not have been especially charismatic, but he simply had inner strength and this, in my opinion, is more important than anything else.

The Jewish Federations of North America:

JFNA’s chair of the Board of Trustees, Kathy Manning, said "Yitzhak Shamir was one of the last of the great founding leaders of the State of Israel. He was a man who lived modestly throughout his entire life and devoted everything to the land, the people and the State of Israel."

Douglas Bloomfield, who directed AIPAC’s legislative arm when Shamir was prime minister, says Shamir’s refusal to budge cost him. He recounts the famously frosty relationship between Shamir and President George H. W. Bush, driven by Shamir’s resistance to the elder Bush’s pressures on Israel to begin a peace process with the Palestinians:

Unlike some politicians, Shamir was not one to say yes when he meant no.   He took pride in standing up to American pressure as a matter of ideology, but it cost him his premiership.  He lost the 1992 election to Yitzhak Rabin in large part because of his failure to successfully manage the American portfolio. 

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary says Shamir’s alleged failures in retrospect seem prescient:

Shamir’s cool, patient leadership style seems to have been far wiser than either [Shimon] Peres’ dreamy belief in the Palestinians’ desire for peace or those on the right who thought their rhetoric could persuade the West to see things from Israel’s point of view.

Americans for Peace Now recorded both its disagreement with and respect for the late prime minister:

Prime Minister Shamir was a patriot who cared deeply about his country’s security and wellbeing. We did not agree with his hardline policies on peace with the Palestinians and with Israel’s neighboring Arab states, but we recognized Mr. Shamir’s dedication to his country and his people and his deep sense of responsibility for Israel’s security. We send our deepest condolences to the Shamir family and to the people of Israel.

Recommended from JTA