Yitzhak Shamir: Patriot, Fighter, Realist
haOlam 4 July 2012
Among the last of a generation passed away Saturday, as Yitzhak Shamir, former Israeli prime minister, state founder and patriot for the State of Israel, died at the age of 96.
Funeral services will be held Monday at Mt. Herzl. Shamir´s wife, Shulamit, died in 2011. Shamir is survived by two children, Yair and Gilada.
Shamir served as prime minister twice, from 1983-84 and 1986-1992, serving longer than any other Israeli head of state besides David Ben-Gurion.
Born in Russia, Shamir was a student at Warsaw University when he moved to pre-state Israel in 1935. He later served as a leader of the Irgun and Lehi, pre-state militias opposed to British rule in Palestine.
Shamir joined the Mossad in 1955, directing operations against former Nazi scientists who were helping to build missiles for Israel´s enemy, Egypt.
Shamir joined politics in 1969, becoming speaker of the Knesset in 1977 and foreign minister for Likud´s Menachem Begin before succeeding Begin in 1983. Shamir later led a national unity government with Labor´s Shimon Peres and was head of state during the first Iraq War, when Israel was hit with dozens of Scud missiles.
After heavy pressure from the United States, Shamir participated in 1991´s Madrid Peace Talks. As a result, his right-wing coalition collapsed and Yitzhak Rabin´s Labor party formed the next government in 1992. Shamir stayed in government until 1996.
Shamir was highly suspect of Arab intentions in the Middle East, once saying "the Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea." In other words, it was and always will be the intention of the Arab nations surrounding Israel to destroy the Jewish state.
After a moment of silence in Sunday´s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said of Shamir:
"An increasing number of people today are arriving at the realization that the man had access to fundamental truths and did not let the trends of the day sway him away from those,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also described Shamir as "devoid of pretenses and mannerisms, a true, simple, honest man of incredible internal strength.”
Shimon Peres, Shamir´s contemporary and political rival, said:
"Yitzhak Shamir was a brave warrior for Israel, before and after its inception. He was a great patriot and his enormous contribution will be forever etched in our chronicles," President Shimon Peres said in a statement. (...)