Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Legacy

July 6, 2012 9:46 am 0 comments

Yitzhak Shamir flanked by his wife Shulamit and a hostess lighting Hannukah candles on their return flight from Washington (02/12/1983). Photo: GPO.

In 1992, Republican Whip Senator Alan Simpson from Wyoming, who was critical of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s policies, told me: “How can I like Prime Minister Shamir when he resembles an aggressive, roaring tiger? However, how can I not respect a roaring tiger?!”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Jim Baker, who was one of the crudest detractors of Shamir’s policies, respected Shamir’s ironclad commitment to deeply rooted ideology.

Therefore, he considered Shamir a trustworthy—although non-subservient—ally of the U.S.

Shamir was consistently guided by principles, values and a history-driven ideology; he was not herded by pollsters and public-opinion consultants.

The late Prime Minister Shamir was a role model of Jewish patriotism, optimism, principle-driven and security-based statesmanship, history-motivated tenacity, reliability, modesty, independence and endurance in face of brutal pressure.

In 1991, at the height of the bitter conflict between Prime Minster Shamir and then Republican President George H. W. Bush, then Republican House Whip Newt Gingrich, asked: “How can you expect communications between Bush, who was given the presidency, as well as the CIA and the U.N. ambassadorship, on a golden platter, and Shamir, who has demonstrated willingness to sacrifice his life on the altar of ideology?”

Following the 1990 meeting between Shamir and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, George Mitchell and Bob Dole, respectively, the latter told Shamir: “The Majority Leader and I respect you—although we disagree with your policies—because you are tough!”

The short Shamir was a giant of a prime minister—a geopolitical game-changer—in the areas of aliyah (Jewish immigration), the economy, U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation and defiance of pressure.

While the Jackson-Vanik Amendment opened the doors of the USSR for emigration, Shamir’s aliyah policy was chiefly responsible for the arrival in Israel of over one million immigrants from the USSR. Shamir believed that aggressive, tenacious, proactive aliyah policy—generating aliyah—was the prerequisite for massive aliyah waves from the USSR, Ethiopia and other countries. During the 1990s, he predicted a future aliyah wave from France due to growing anti-Semitism and Islamic migration.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Dick Schifter appreciated Shamir’s intense lobbying of Secretaries of State Schultz and Baker to stop issuing refugee certificates to Soviet Jews, thus directing them to relocate to Israel. In addition, Shamir initiated a request to the U.S. Senate to pass a resolution—signed by all 100 senators—expecting Moscow to direct Jewish emigrants to fly only directly to Israel and not to Rome or Vienna. Shamir’s initiatives transformed an 80 percent dropout rate (until 1990) to an almost 100 percent arrival rate, by Soviet Jews, to Israel.

Shamir orchestrated the absorption of over one million Soviet Jews and 60,000 Ethiopian Jews — an unprecedented human accomplishment. He considered aliyah to be the raison d’etre of the Jewish State, its moral compass, its top priority and its turbo growth engine.  He was aware that aliyah determined Israel’s posture of deterrence and the Jewish-Arab demographic balance between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Shamir laid down the foundations for the resurgence of Israel’s economy from a potential meltdown to one of the most fiscally responsible economies in the world. His composure in face of lethal pressures, marathon-like (and not sprint-like) style of leadership, strategic thinking and willingness to lead through the delegation of authority to experts— such as Jacob Frenkel, who was appointed by Shamir to be the governor of the Bank of Israel—paved the road to the stabilization of Israel’s shekel, the dramatic restraint of inflation, interest and unemployment rates and the drastic reduction of the budget deficit.

Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz was a systematic critic of Shamir’s policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rarely fails to express his utmost respect for Shamir’s integrity and perseverance. Most of Shamir’s sustained critics in Washington indicate that “we miss him now more than anytime before.”

In 1988, Texas Congressman Ted Poe, then a federal judge and currently a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, defined Shamir as “the sturdiest statesman in the Middle East.”

Shamir’s defiance of the U.S., when it came to Jewish roots in the Land of Israel and Israel’s fundamental security requirements, eroded his popularity, but enhanced respect for him. In 1991, he preconditioned participation in the Madrid Conference upon a U.S. commitment to avoid any reference to land-for-peace, to prohibit PLO participation and to inform Syria that no retreat on the Golan Heights was forthcoming. His image as a strategic partner was upgraded by his dismissal of international guarantees of Israel’s security and propositions to station foreign troops on Israel’s borders. On a rainy day, the U.S. is not looking for a “punching bag,” but for a reliable, capable, democratic, unconditional ally, which is willing to defy even the U.S.

Shamir’s seven years at the helm were characterized by unprecedented expansion of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation—despite severe disagreements over the Palestinian issue—from the April 1988 Memorandum of Understanding through the 1990-1991 enhancement of joint exercises, intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation, prepositioning of U.S. military hardware in Israel, defense industrial cooperation, the upgrading of the port of Haifa for the Sixth Fleet, etc.

Contemporary challenges, domestically, internationally, commercially and militarily, behoove Israeli and American leaders to follow in the footsteps of Prime Minister Shamir and carry on his legacy.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of “Second Thought: a U.S.-Israel initiative.”

This column first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with the permission of Yoram Ettinger.

Leave a Reply

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


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →