Remembering Shamir: The Integrity of “No”

July 3, 2012 1:10 pm 2 comments

U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger (right) greets Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yitzhak Shamir in a Pentagon Conference Room in 1982. Photo: Frank Hall.

The people of Israel lost a true leader with the passing of Yitzhak Shamir. Before assuming the reins as our seventh prime minister, Shamir dutifully served his people and his country first as head of the underground Lehi, then in the Mossad where he was responsible for tracking down and eliminating some of our worst enemies including Nazi war criminals who had fled to Egypt, and finally in the political arena where he served as a member and then Speaker of Knesset, Foreign Minister and finally Prime Minister after the resignation of his mentor Menachem Begin.

Upon the death of a loved one, we often take the time to look through the memory book of their life and search for the lessons that their legacy can teach us. In the case of Yitzhak Shamir, a multi-volume set of thick bound tomes might be a more appropriate metaphor. These books are filled with the earth of the whole land of Israel, and immersed in values and an understanding of our unique place in history. His spirit and his values are an inspiration to all of those who love this land, and especially to the members of his beloved Likud movement that strives to stay true to Shamir’s teachings.

You do not negotiate on your core ideology. This is what guided Shamir in his steadfast defense of the rights of the Jewish people to their historical homeland. In the years that he guided Israel’s foreign policy, he would not compromise on this basic tenet. In 1992, under intense pressure from the American administration, Shamir stood fast and made clear to the world that money cannot buy and replace values. He bravely rejected the US demand that he stop building in Judea and Samaria in return for loan guarantees. This money was very much needed to absorb our brothers who were then coming home from the former Soviet Union, but Shamir knew that such an act on his behalf would be a slippery slope that would set a terrible precedent for the future leaders of Israel. Such a move on his behalf would have endangered his beloved settlement enterprise which he knew was invaluable for the future well-being of the State.

Shamir’s decisions and policies were not always popular or politically correct. There was no end of criticism both in Israel and from the international community. In fact, there were times when his refusal to abandon his core values probably cost him at the ballot box, such as when he lost to Yitzhak Rabin in the 1992 elections. Nevertheless, over time, his steadfastness disproved today’s assumption that you must be guided daily by opinion polls to obtain power, and then govern. Without ever abandoning his beliefs, Shamir was able to not only reach the highest office in the land, but he also ended up serving in office longer than any other prime minister since David Ben Gurion. Moreover, because of his intellectual honesty and core decency, since leaving office Shamir has been admired by all Israelis – whatever their political persuasion – for the great leader that he was.

To better convey Shamir’s unique foresight and leadership capabilities, I must share a short story. In the early 1990s, while serving as a Betar emissary in the United States, I invited a childhood hero of mine to come speak to my host community. Yitzhak graciously agreed to come and speak at an event I had organized promoting Israel and aliyah. When he was asked for his opinion about the demographic threat that is so often raised, Shamir answered with full confidence that we must remain steadfast and work tirelessly to bring millions of Soviet Jews home to Israel. At that time, such a prediction seemed completely unrealistic and even a tad naïve. Nevertheless, Shamir’s analysis proved with time to be completely accurate and proved how important it is for a leader to remain true to his values. By believing and planning, one million Russians ultimately came to live in Israel, changing our core demographic reality forever.

That night, after he had finished addressing the group, I had the honor of spending an evening with the former Prime Minister. I was enthralled with his stories and life lessons, especially with his core conviction that a leader must truly believe in and be ready to defend his policies. If a leader does so, he told me, there is no need to worry about the criticism that will inevitably follow any brave decision.

Yitzhak Shamir was truly made of the very fibers of which history is woven. We must all strive to fulfill the legacy of Prime Minster Shamir. He starkly proved that sometimes in history, saying “no” is the best possible way to achieve “yes.” We should all do our best to remain true to our beliefs and none of us should go to sleep at night without asking ourselves “what have I done today for the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and what can I do tomorrow to ensure the safety and well-being of these two unwavering commitments of the beloved Yitzhak Shamir.”

Member of Knesset Danny Danon is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Chairman of the World Likud.

2 Comments

  • Ben Eliezer

    Nice article. But what about the Intifada?

    The first Intifada occurred when Shamir was Prime Minister. He failed to end the uprising, allowed international opinion to move firmly closer to the Arabs and then he started the negotiations in Madrid that led to Oslo. He also knuckled under to Bush/Baker and failed to respond when Iraq hurled SCUD missiles at Tel Aviv. He was a failure.

  • BUT Shamir said YES to negotiating with terrorists at Madrid and started the entire process of Israeli surrender of the Jews and Arabs to the PLO terror regime. The article is the type that just ignores the reality of Shamir’s surrender of Israel.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.