ZOA Mourns Loss of Jewish Giant: Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir
News
July 2, 2012

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) mourns the loss of a giant in Jewish and Israeli history, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.  PM Shamir was 96.  Mr. Shamir served as Prime Minister of Israel in 1983-84 and 1986-92 for seven years. Only David Ben-Gurion has served longer as the leader of the Jewish state.  In 1973, Shamir was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud.  He was Speaker in 1977 and Foreign Minister in 1980.  He served in the Mossad from 1955-1965.  Prime Minister Shamir was both a member of the Irgun and a commander of the Lehi group, which many give credit for being critical to the founding of the Jewish state.


I am honored and proud to say that Yitzhak Shamir was a personal friend of mine.  We first met when we were the two speakers at a pro-Israel rally at Shaare Shamayin synagogue in Philadelphia in 1994.  Later that year my wife and I visited with Prime Minister Shamir and his wife at their small apartment in Tel Aviv.  I remember telling my wife how surprised I was that a Prime Minister lived in such a small residence.  Shamir’s extraordinary humility was always part of Shamir’s life.


The Prime Minister was the Keynote Speaker at our annual Brandeis Award dinner in 1995 that honored Carl and Sylvia Freyer.  U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was the other speaker. (The Prime Minister said he noticed we had Benjamin Netanyahu as Keynote the year before, why didn’t we invite him before Netanyahu, the Prime Minister quipped.) He also addressed ZOA delegates at ZOA Israel missions.


Shamir’s remarks at the ZOA Dinner included:


“I am happy to be speaking to the ZOA who proudly tells the truth about the Oslo accords, the Palestinian’s refusal to fulfill any of its obligations, and the danger to Israel Oslo represents.”


 “The problem we face is so grave that my conscience does not permit me to be silent,” he said. “The peace will not be a real peace,” he said.  “it is not built on a readiness of these Arabs for a peace with us, but rather on an Arab plan to destroy Israel in stages.”  He said that the PLO already is looking at the areas of Jericho and Gaza and plans to set up its capital in Jerusalem.  He said the PLO plans to resettle as many as a million Arabs in Israeli territory.


“This is the Arafat plan that will be fleshed out and could, God forbid, become reality,” Mr. Shamir said. “The contradictions between the promises of [Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin to the Israeli people and the promises of {Yasser} Arafat to the Arabs will eventually be revealed and will cause the collapse of this ‘peace in our time,’” he said.


The irony, Mr. Shamir said, is that before the peace agreement, the PLO had “no chance to even approach their goals of destruction,” much less achieve success.  “Had we only been patient, we could have witnessed before long the collapse of our most extreme enemies.” “Israel settlers are the real defenders of the sacred covenant between the people of Israel and the land of Israel…they deserve all the support and solidarity of Jews everywhere.”


ZOA President Morton Klein remarked, “I remember that when I asked Prime Minister Shamir to speak at our dinner, he asked for a normal speaking fee appropriate for a former Prime Minister.  When I balked and strongly complained that ZOA was not in good financial shape (in 1995), he immediately said, ‘OK, OK, don’t worry, you don’t have to pay me a fee.’”


We must always remember that it was Shamir who worked fervently with the United States to insure that the U.S. not issue refugee certificates to Soviet Jews, so they would be directed to relocate to Israel.  He oversaw the absorption of one million Soviet Jews.  Shamir was also responsible for tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews immigrating to Israel.


In 1991, he refused to participate in the Madrid Conference between Arabs and Israelis unless the U.S. guaranteed there was no PLO participation, no discuss of Land-for-Peace or ceding the Golan Heights to Syria.


ZOA President Morton A. Klein and Chairman Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, “Prime Minister Shamir was a proud and courageous Jew who stood up like a rock to the enemies of the Jewish people.  He devoted his life to our people with a strength seldom seen.  As Congressman Ted Poe of Texas said, ‘He was the sturdiest statesmen in the Middle East.’ Shamir was not blinded by fantasies but by reality.  He lived by Winston Churchill’s dictum, ‘You must look at the facts, for the facts are looking at you.’  Yitzhak Shamir was a great Jewish patriot.  We will miss him dearly. May his memory be for a blessing.”

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