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Yitzhak Shamir
יִצְחָק שָׁמִיר

In office
20 October 1986 – 13 July 1992
Preceded by Shimon Peres
Succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin
In office
10 October 1983 – 13 September 1984
Preceded by Menachem Begin
Succeeded by Shimon Peres

Born 15 October 1915 (1915-10-15) (age 94)
Ruzhinoy, Russian Empire (now in Belarus)
Political party Likud
Spouse(s) Shulamit Shamir

About this sound Yitzhak Shamir (Hebrew: יִצְחָק שָׁמִיר‎, born October 15, 1915) was the seventh Prime Minister of Israel from 1983 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1992.


Early life

Yitzhak Shamir was born Icchak Jeziernicky in Ruzhany (Yiddish: Rozhinoy), Russian Empire (now Belarus). He studied at a Hebrew High School in Białystok, Poland. As a youth he joined Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement. He studied at the law faculty of Warsaw University, but cut his studies short to immigrate to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1935, after settling in Palestine, he Hebraized his surname to Shamir. He joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi, an underground Jewish militia organization that opposed British control of Palestine. When the Irgun split in 1940, Shamir sided with the more militant faction, Lehi, headed by Avraham Stern.[1] In secret contacts with German representatives at Beirut the group offered to open up a military front against the British in the Middle East in return for the expulsion (rather than extermination) of the Jewish population of Europe to Palestine.[2]

In 1941 Shamir was imprisoned by British authorities. After Stern was killed by the British in 1942, Shamir escaped from the detention camp and became one of the three leaders of the group in 1943, reforming it as "Lehi". In October 1944 he was exiled and interned in Africa by the Mandate authorities. He made an attempt to escape from one of the camps by hiding in a water tank.[3] He was returned, along with the other detainees, after the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.[4] As one of Lehi's triumvirate, he authorized the assassination of the United Nations representative in the Middle East, Count Folke Bernadotte, who was seen by Shamir and his collaborators as an anti-Zionist and "an obvious agent of the British enemy".[5]

Shamir admired the Irish Republicans and sought to emulate their anti-British struggle. Shamir himself took the nickname "Michael" for Michael Collins.[6] After the battle for independence, Shamir joined the secret intelligence service (Mossad) (1955-1965).

Political career

In 1969, Shamir joined the Herut party headed by Menachem Begin and was first elected to the Knesset in 1973 as a member of the Likud. He became Speaker of the Knesset in 1977, and foreign minister in 1980, before succeeding Begin as prime minister in 1983 when he retired.


Prime Minister

Shamir had a reputation as a Likud hard-liner. In 1977 he presided at the Knesset visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He abstained in the Knesset votes to approve the Camp David Accords and the Peace Treaty with Egypt. In 1981 and 1982, as Foreign Minister, he guided negotiations with Egypt to normalize relations after the treaty. Following the 1982 Lebanon War he directed negotiations which led to the May 17 1983 Agreement agreement with Lebanon, which did not materialize.

His failure to stabilize Israel's inflationary economy and to suggest a solution to the quagmire of Lebanon led to an indecisive election in 1984, after which a national unity government was formed between his Likud party and the Alignment led by Shimon Peres. As part of the agreement, Peres held the post of Prime Minister until September 1986, when Shamir took over.

As he prepared to reclaim the office of prime minister, which he had held previously from October 1983 to September 1984, Shamir's hard-line image appeared to moderate. However Shamir remained reluctant to change the status quo in Israel's relations with its Arab neighbors, and blocked Peres's initiative to promote a regional peace conference as agreed in 1987 with King Hussein of Jordan in what has become known as the London Agreement. Re-elected in 1988, Shamir and Peres formed a new coalition government until "the dirty trick" of 1990, when the Alignment left the government, leaving Shamir with a narrow right-wing coalition.

During the First Gulf War Shamir's government decided not to retaliate after the Iraqi Scud missile volleys (many of which struck Israeli population centers) . The United States urged restraint, saying Israeli attacks would jeopardize the delicate Arab-Western coalition assembled against Iraq. In May 1991, as the Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was collapsing, Shamir ordered the airlifting of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, known as Operation Solomon. Relations with the US were actually strained in the period after the war, over the Madrid peace talks which Shamir opposed. As a result, US President George Herbert Walker Bush was reluctant to approve loan guarantees needed to help absorb the large immigration from the former Soviet Union. Finally, Shamir gave in and in October 1991 participated in the Madrid talks. His narrow right wing government collapsed as a result, over the participation of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and new elections were called.

Electoral defeat and retirement

Shamir was defeated by Yitzhak Rabin's Labour in the 1992 election. He stepped down from the Likud leadership in March 1993, but remained a member of the Knesset until the 1996 election. For some time, Shamir was a critic of his Likud successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, as being too indecisive in dealing with the Arabs. Shamir went so far as to resign from the Likud in 1998 and endorse the right-wing splinter movement led by Benny Begin, Herut - The National Movement, that later joined the National Union during the 1999 election. After Netanyahu was defeated, Shamir returned to the Likud fold and supported Ariel Sharon in the 2001 election. Subsequently, in his late 80's, Shamir ceased making public comments.


In 2001, Shamir received the Israel Prize, for his lifetime achievements and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[7][8][9] According to Israeli politician Ruby Rivlin, Shamir was "an honest politician who performed his duties with utter integrity." Former head of Israeli Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, calls him a "remarkably honest man."[10]

Personal life

Shamir is married to Shulamit. They have two children, Yair and Gilada.[11] In 2004, his health declined and he was moved to a nursing home. The government turned down a request by the family to finance his stay at the facility.[12]


  1. ^ "Stern Gang" A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press [1].
  2. ^ Heller, Joseph (1995) The Stern Gang: Ideology, Politics, and Terror, 1940-1949. Frank Cass Publishers. ISBN 0-7146-4558-3, pp. 85-86
  3. ^ Tesfai, Alemseged (11 August 2002). "A Bit of Eritrean History at Bridport, UK". Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  4. ^ Plaut, Martin (6 August 2002). "Britain's 'Guantanamo Bay'". BBC. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  5. ^ Gazi, Mordechai (2002) Israeli Diplomacy & the Middle East Peace Process London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-5233-4, p. 32
  6. ^ Colin Shindler, The Land Beyond Promise:Israel, Likud and the Zionist Dream, I.B.Tauris, 2001 p. 177, see also Joseph O'Neill, "Blood-Dark Track: A Family History", Harper Perennial 2009, p. 216.
  7. ^ Shamir, Eban, Ben-Porat Garner Israel Prize The Jewish Week, May 2001
  8. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site (in Hebrew) – Recipient’s C.V.". 
  9. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site (in Hebrew) – Judges' Rationale for Grant to Recipient". 
  10. ^ Keeping the Faith
  11. ^ Yitzhak Shamir celebrates 85th birthday
  12. ^ State refuses to pay for Shamir's nursing home Hebrew

External links

See also

Party political offices
Preceded by
Menachem Begin
Leader of the Likud Party
Succeeded by
Benjamin Netanyahu


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Yitzhak Shamir (Hebrew יִצְחָק שָׁמִיר) (born 1915-10-15) was Prime Minister of Israel from 1983 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1992. He was born Icchak Jaziernicki (Itzchak Izernitzki) in Różana, Poland (now Ruzhany, Belarus).


  • Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: "Ye shall blot them out to the last man." We are particularly far from having any qualms with regard to the enemy, whose moral degradation is universally admitted here.

    But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier.

    • Hehazit [The Front] (Summer 1943)
  • Our image has undergone change from David fighting Goliath to being Goliath.
    • Daily Telegraph London, (25 January, 1989).

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