Says Goodbye, Thank You to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir
Israel News Agency
Israel --- July 5, 2012 ... Part of the following was communicated
by the Israel Government Press Office to the Israel News Agency.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke the following at the funeral
of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhar Shamir at the Mt. Herzl Military
Cemetery in Jerusalem on July 2, 2012:
Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the State
of Israel, begins with the words, "The Land of Israel was
the birthplace of the Jewish people". These two things, the
Land of Israel and the Jewish people, were always Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir's top priorities. They dictated his worldview and
they always guided his policies. These two things, the Land of
Israel and the Jewish people, were uncompromising principles to
Yitzhak Shamir. He served them his entire life."
without uniforms'. Yitzhak Shamir and his fellow members of the
Lehi underground sang these words, and that was how he lived his
entire life with a deep awareness of service and sense
of mission. He was an anonymous soldier in the underground before
the establishment of the country. He was an anonymous soldier
at the Mossad - Israel Secret Service - after the establishment
of the country. Later in his overt and higher official roles
Speaker of the Knesset, Foreign Minister and Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir was already well-known.
Even then, I was always impressed that, in his heart and through
his humble behavior, he continued to see himself as that same
anonymous soldier serving the people and the country. He never
asked for any recognition or appreciation. Yitzhak Shamir did
not search out popularity or respect. Every action and decision
he made had to pass one simple test was it good for the
Jewish people and the Land of Israel?
Shamir bore on his
shoulders the burden of the history of the generation that suffered
the Holocaust and experienced the rebirth on a personal and national
scale. My colleague, MK Rivlin, spoke at the meeting of the Likud
faction members yesterday and told how, at the moving ceremony
of the reading of the names, 'Every Person has a Name', Shamir
would speak of the murder of his father, mother and other family
members by the Nazi collaborators. It was one of the few times
when his voice would tremble.
He wholeheartedly believed
that his mission as Prime Minister of Israel charged him with
the responsibility to continue the colossal historic task of returning
the Jewish people from the ends of the Earth to the land of our
ancestors, and fortifying our national home in our land.
He was stubborn and
suspicious when faced with any idea that meant a reduction in
the borders of the homeland, and his loyalty to the homeland knew
no bounds. He was creative and open in the same measure when faced
with any idea that meant seizing another opportunity to continue
ingathering the exiles.
Yitzhak Shamir made
a tremendous contribution to the immigration and successful absorption
of one million Jews from the former Soviet Union.
He believed that Aliya, the immigrants would change the country's
face and that they would contribute greatly to Israel's development.
He was right, of course. He also contributed to the immigration
of the Ethiopian Jews, whose millennial yearning for Zion moved
He was a man of deep
feelings, but he was fundamentally a practical man. He felt that
every minute of his life must be dedicated to the goals he set
for himself for his people and his homeland. He was a man
of few words, but when he spoke, every word he said expressed
the depths of his heart.
Shamir was never blinded
by the glamour that accompanied his meetings with world leaders,
and he never lost his composure when faced with large and powerful
countries, even superpowers. He stood before these countries and
spoke the truth of Israel in a matter-of-fact and clear tone of
voice, while taking into account the justness of the Jewish people's
path and the Land of Israel's rights. It is no secret that some
people around the world did not agree with his positions, but
I accompanied him to many meetings and I was impressed, and you
too can be impressed, that over time, world leaders learned to
appreciate and respect his strong steadfastness with regard to
Israel's national interest and security.
It was when he served
as Prime Minister of Israel, even as he did not compromise his
positions, that a significant number of countries established
diplomatic relations with Israel or renewed them, including the
Soviet Union, China, India, Spain and others.
As opposed to his image
as a sphinx who did not take international systems into account,
I remember that he would call me when I served as UN ambassador
one of his many appointments of young people whom he advanced.
Yitzhak Shamir was committed to advancing young people and nurturing
them, and many of them are here today, slightly less young. He
would call me and ask what was happening there, what was happening
in the United States and what was happening in relation to Israel,
He wanted to discuss
the smallest details. It was important to him in the public diplomacy
battle. Even when we went to Madrid, he did not go with great
enthusiasm, but that is where the dialogue towards peace talks
with our neighbors began. He thought the public diplomacy battle
was the most important fight and that it was not enough for us
to be right, but rather we should talk about this rightness as
much as possible.
Beyond the fact that
the good of the country as he understood it always was a top priority,
two things from his six and a half years as Prime Minister of
Israel stand out to me: firstly, Yitzhak Shamir recognized the
importance of national unity. It was true in 1984 when he and
Shimon Peres established the unity government, and it was true
in the elections that followed when he could have formed a narrow
government and still preferred unity. Yitzhak Shamir recognized
that unity among the people was an important source of national
strength. The second thing that stood out during his tenure was
the restraint he demonstrated during the Gulf War.
It has been said many times that Shamir decided not to respond
when the missiles were falling on Israel because he did not want
to weaken the international coalition that had organized against
However, there is an
important detail in the story that is less known. When the missiles
were falling on Israel, Yitzhak Shamir did not sit idly by.
He sent a message to the US through then Israel Defense Minister
Moshe Arens that Israel was going to move against Iraq. The United
States understood that Shamir was serious in his intentions and
preparations. And he was serious. The Americans understood that
words and promises would not suffice, but before Israel could
act, a ceasefire was announced that eliminated the need for Israeli
action. If the missile fire had continued, Israel, under Yitzhak
Shamir's leadership, would have acted.
That is how Yitzhak
Shamir was firm, practical, full of faith, steady and totally
committed to Israel's security.
Today we accompany
him to his final rest here in the plot for Great Leaders of the
Nation, alongside his devoted wife Shulamit, his loyal partner
whom he loved with all his heart and who passed away last year.
On her gravestone is written:"Her devotion will only be released
Yitzhak Shamir will
be remembered as one of the nation's great leaders who dedicated
their lives to their people and their homeland, and thus will
he be written in the history of the people of Israel.
May his memory be blessed."
was born October 22, 1915 in Ruzinoy, Poland where he attended
the Bialystok Hebrew Secondary School and became an active member
of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's Betar Zionist youth movement. In 1935, at
the age of 20, Shamir interrupted his law studies in Warsaw to
move to British Mandatory Palestine, where he enrolled at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
arriving in Palestine, Shamir joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National
Military Organization "Etzel") and, in 1940, followed
Avraham Stern into the Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Freedom Fighters
of Israel "Fighters"), another - more militaristic -
underground defense organization. The following year he was imprisoned
by the British authorities but, in 1943, he escaped from the British
detention camp and soon became one of the Lehi's principal leaders.
as Lehi's principal director of operations until 1946, when he
was detained again by the British and exiled to a Britishrun
prison camp in Eritrea. In 1947, he escaped from the camp as well,
made his way to the neighboring French colony of Djibouti, and
was later granted political asylum in France. Upon his return
to Israel, Shamir took back his command of the Lehi, a position
he would hold until the organization disbanded in 1949 after the
formation of the Israel Defense Forces.
several commercial enterprises, Shamir joined Israel's Secret
Service - Mossad - in the mid1950's. He returned to private
commercial activity in the mid1960's, when he became active
in the campaign to free Soviet Jewry and joined Menachem Begin's
Herut movement, which evolved into the Likud Party.
the Knesset in 1973 as a member of the Likud, Shamir served on
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the State Comptroller's
Committee. Upon reelection to the Knesset in 1977, he became Speaker,
in which capacity he presided over the historic visit of Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat and the debate over the peace treaty with
the resignation of Moshe Dayan, Shamir joined the Begin Cabinet
as Foreign Minister in March 1980, and continued in this position
after the 1981 elections. He guided negotiations on the posttreaty
"normalization" process with Egypt, and initiated diplomatic
contacts with numerous African countries which had severed relations
with Jerusalem during the Yom Kippur War. Following Operation
Peace for Galilee in 1982, Shamir directed negotiations with Lebanon
which led to the 1983 peace agreement (never ratified by the Lebanese
1983, Shamir succeeded Menachem Begin as Prime Minister. Following
the 1984 election, he became VicePremier and Foreign Ministry
in the Government of National Unity.
Israel Defense Minister Moshe Arens, Shamir worked with President
Ronald Reagan and Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger to create
a framework for US - Israel strategic cooperation and the US -
Israel Free Trade Agreement. In midterm, Shamir returned to the
premiership, rotating positions with Labor leader Shimon Peres.
the 1988 elections, Shamir again created a National Unity Government
with Labor, but without the "rotation" element of its
predecessor. This government fell in 1990 due to a vote of noconfidence
in the Knesset, but, following a protracted stalemate, Shamir
succeeded in forming a narrow coalition government.
In May 1991,
Yitzhak Shamir ordered the airlift rescue of thousands of Ethiopian
Jews, codenamed "Operation Solomon." In September 1991,
he represented Israel at the Madrid Peace Conference which brought
about direct negotiations with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the
the 1992 election, Shamir stepped down from the party leadership
and retired from the Israeli Knesset in 1996.
In 2001, Shamir
was awarded with the annual Israel Prize in recognition of his
lifetime achievements and special contributions to the society
and wellbeing of the State of Israel. In 2004, Shamir's health
declined rapidly, with the onset of Alzheimers Disease and he
was subsequently moved into a private nursing home. The following
year he was voted the 29th-greatest Israeli of all time through
a poll conducted by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot.
On June 30,
2012, Shamir died while at the nursing home he was living in in
Tel Aviv. He was 96 years old. He was a given a state funeral
on July 2 and buried amongst Israel's other war heros and prime
ministers on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Shimon Peres 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.
He was loyal to his beliefs and he served his country with the
utmost dedication for decades. May he rest in peace."
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