(1915 - 2012)
Yitzhak Shamir was a Israeli soldier and politician who served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1983 to 1884 and again from 1986 to 1992.
Shamir (born October 22, 1915; died June 30, 2012) was born 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.
Soon after 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
Shamir served 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.
After managing several commercial enterprises, Shamir
joined Israel's security services 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
Elected to 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 Egypt.
Following 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 government).
In October 1983, Shamir succeeded Menachem
Begin as Prime
Minister. Following the 1984 election, he became VicePremier
and Foreign Ministry in the Government of National Unity.
Together with Defense Minister Moshe
Arens, Shamir worked with President Ronald
Reagan and Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger to create a framework
for U.S.Israel strategic
cooperation and the U.S.Israel
Free Trade Agreement. In midterm, Shamir returned to the premiership,
rotating positions with Labor leader Shimon Peres.
Following 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, Shamir ordered the airlift rescue of
thousands of Ethiopian Jews,
Solomon." In September 1991, he represented Israel at the Madrid Peace Conference which brought about direct negotiations with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
Defeated in the 1992 election, Shamir stepped down from the
party leadership and retired from the 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 Har Herzl in Jerusalem.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said that "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."