- (formerly Yzernitzky)(1915- )Born in Rozhinay (or Rozhnoi) in eastern Poland in 1915, he was educated at a Hebrew secondary school in Bialystok, where he became a disciple of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky and joined the Revisionist youth movement, Betar. He studied law at Warsaw University until 1935, when he immigrated (see ALIYA) to Palestine and changed his name to Shamir. He completed his studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Shamir joined the Irgun in 1937 and rose through the ranks of the organization into leadership positions. In 1940, the Irgun suspended attacks against the British mandatory authorities in Palestine and offered its cooperation in the war effort against Germany. This action caused a split in the organization and led to the creation of a smaller and more militant group, which Shamir joined. This faction, LEHI (Lohamei Herut Yisrael—Israel Freedom Fighters), was known as the "Stern Gang," named after Avraham Stern (Yair), the group's first leader. They viewed the British as the main obstacle to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. After Stern was killed by British police in 1942, Shamir helped to reorganize LEHI, establishing a high command known as LEHI Central, which included Shamir, Nathan Yellin Mor, and Dr. Israel Scheib (Eldad). Shamir directed LEHI's operations, which became increasingly violent.A terror campaign was conducted against the British that included the assassination of Lord Moyne, Great Britain's senior Middle East official who was stationed in Cairo in 1944. Two LEHI members were captured, tried, convicted, and executed for the crime. The Stern Gang was also suspected in the assassination of Swedish count Folke Bernadotte, who sought to mediate an end to Israel's War of Independence of 1948 on behalf of the United Nations, but these charges were never substantiated, and Shamir has refused to comment on the matter. He was arrested twice by British authorities, in 1941 and 1946, but managed to escape both times. He was sent to a detention camp in Eritrea, but he escaped and traveled through Ethiopia to Djibouti, ultimately arriving in France, where he was given political asylum. He remained in France until he returned to the newly established state of Israel in May 1948.Shamir found it difficult to enter Israel's new political system, which was dominated by former Hagana members and others who had been associated with the labor Zionist Movement. He sought election to the Knesset in 1949 with a list of candidates comprised of former LEHI members, but this effort failed. Shamir did not pursue elective office again until he joined the Herut Party of Menachem Begin in 1970. During the period from 1948 to 1955, he was active in a number of private commercial ventures, including directing an association of cinema owners. These were not particularly successful. Isser Harel, then head of the Mossad, recruited Shamir into the organization in 1955, where his operational experience from the mandate period could be put to use. He spent a decade with the Mossad and rose to a senior position. For a part of that time, he was stationed in Paris. Shamir left the Mossad in 1965 and returned to private life, where he pursued commercial interests but with only moderate success. He remained active in public life primarily through his efforts at increasing Soviet Jewish immigration to Israel. In 1970, Begin offered him a position in Herut, which Shamir had recently joined, and he was elected to the executive committee and became the director of the immigration department.Shamir successfully ran for election to the Knesset for the first time on the Herut list in 1973 and became a member of the Knesset State Comptroller Committee and the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. He directed Herut's organization department, and in 1975, he was elected chairman of the party's executive committee, a post to which he was reelected unanimously two years later. Shamir was elected speaker of the Knesset in June 1977. Loyalty characterized Shamir's service to Begin, both within the Likud Party and in the Begin-led governments in which he served. The most significant issue that separated the two was Begin's decision to negotiate and sign the Camp David Accords and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Shamir opposed the treaty (as did other Likud leaders, including Moshe Arens and Ariel Sharon) because he believed Israel was sacrificing too much in return for what he viewed as uncertain guarantees of peace. The withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and the relinquishing of the security buffer it provided and the sophisticated air bases located there, as well as the dismantling of Jewish settlements, was seen as too high a price for Israel to pay. Shamir abstained on the final Knesset vote when the treaty was approved.Begin appointed Shamir as his foreign minister in March 1980. Shamir's view of the Camp David process changed during his tenure as foreign minister, when he was responsible for implementing the agreements reached, and he became an advocate of that approach for future negotiations between Israel and the Arab states. Shamir was also active in efforts to restore diplomatic relations with several African states, which had been severed at the time of the Yom Kip-pur War (1973). He also supported legislation declaring united Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel, as well as the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in June 1981 and the annexation of the Golan Heights in December 1981. He saw these actions as contributing to Israel's security. After the 1981 Knesset election, Shamir continued to serve as foreign minister. During this term in office, Shamir was criticized by the Kahan Commission of Inquiry because he failed to pass on to appropriate individuals information he received from Communications Minister Mordechai Zipori suggesting that massacres were taking place in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in September 1982.When Begin resigned from office in September 1983, Shamir was the compromise choice to follow Begin, and he formed the new government. On 10 October 1983, the Knesset endorsed the government and its programs, and Shamir became the prime minister of Israel, but many viewed him as an interim leader who would last only until the next Knesset election in 1984. The 1984 Knesset election results were inconclusive, and after a period of intense, lengthy, and complex negotiations, Labor and Likud formed in September 1984 a Government of National Unity, the basis of which was a series of compromises and concessions. According to the terms of the agreement, Shamir and Labor's Shimon Peres each were to serve for 25 months as prime minister, while the other held the position of vice prime minister and foreign minister. Peres was prime minister during the first period and rotated positions with Shamir as agreed in October 1986. The 1988 Knesset elections, as in 1984, did not demonstrate a clear preference for either Likud or Labor among the electorate. After weeks of intensive negotiations, Shamir entered into a new coalition agreement with Labor that placed Labor in an equal position with Likud in the government. The distribution of cabinet portfolios among the two blocs was to be equal, but Shamir would remain the prime minister for the full tenure of the government.In the spring of 1989, under persistent pressure from the United States, Shamir (along with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin) developed a complex peace initiative focusing on negotiations with the Palestinians. Building on the idea of Palestinian elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and a five-year transitional period of local self-government, the Shamir Proposal was approved by the Likud-Labor Government of National Unity on 14 May 1989. However, disagreements with the George H. W. Bush administration over specific aspects of the proposal and the absence of a positive response from the Arab side combined to scuttle the plan. Disagreement within the cabinet over the peace process reached a climax in the spring of 1990 that led to a vote of no confidence in the government. Shamir headed a caretaker government and, after an abortive effort by Peres to form a new government, formed a Likud-led government composed of right of center and religious political parties that won Knesset approval in June 1990.Shamir governed Israel during the Persian Gulf War (1991) and took the difficult decision to abide by the American request to not respond militarily to Iraqi Scud missile attacks. Following the end of the war, his government agreed to participate in the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference. Shamir became embroiled in a prolonged dispute with the Bush administration and elements of the American Jewish community over U.S. loan guarantees for absorbing Soviet Jewish immigrants and Likud policy toward Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Shamir announced his resignation as Likud leader following the party's defeat in the 1992 election of the 13th Knesset. He was succeeded by Benjamin Netanyahu in the spring of 1993. He retired from party politics in 1996 but remained an active commentator on Israeli foreign and domestic affairs.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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Shamir, Yitzhak — orig. Yitzhak Jazernicki born Oct. 15, 1915, Ruzinoy, Pol., Russian Empire Polish born Israeli statesman. He immigrated in 1935 to Palestine, where he helped found the Israel Freedom Fighters, later known as the Stern Gang. Twice arrested by… … Universalium
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