Yitzhak Shamir’s Good, Great Life

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Olmert’s Holyland trial is only the latest of the ex-prime minister’s legal troubles. On July 10, the Jerusalem District Court will hand down its verdict on two other corruption scandals – the Talansky Affair, in which Olmert is on trial for accepting bribes and for campaign finance irregularities, and the Rishon Tours Affair in which Olmert is accused of double billing his travel expenses.

However Olmert’s legal travails pan out, the fact that he is facing corruption charges to begin with is wholly a function of his character.

Unlike Shamir, Olmert is perfectly prepared to abandon the public interest to advance his personal comfort. During his tenure as premier, rather than stand up to US pressure for Israeli concessions of land and rights to the Palestinians, Olmert preemptively capitulated.

He called for Israel to unilaterally surrender much of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, despite the latter’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist. He offered to carve up Jerusalem in his peace proposal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He continued to embrace the cause of appeasement despite Abbas’s preference for peace with Hamas over peace with Israel.

So too, during the Second Lebanon War, Olmert chose to lose the war, in a vain attempt to uphold his preference for appeasement over justice and victory. To that end, he accepted a cease-fire that left Hezbollah in charge of south Lebanon. That cease-fire led directly to Hezbollah’s takeover of all of Lebanon in 2007.

Olmert defends his behavior through a mixture of lies and self-justification. AtThe Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on April 29, Olmert claimed that the Second Lebanon War was the greatest military victory in Israel’s history. Apparently he thought we had forgotten about every other war Israel has fought. So, too, Olmert claims that he had no choice other than to submit to US pressure regarding the Palestinians.

SHAMIR’S RECORD is a standing rebuke of Olmert’s excuses for his failures.

Yes, in two key instances, Shamir caved in to US pressure. He did not respond to Iraq’s missile offensive against Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. And he agreed to participate in the Madrid Conference in 1991 where then-US president George H.W. Bush forced Shamir to hold negotiations on the basis of “land for peace,” with the Palestinians and the Syrians.

In both cases, Shamir’s acquiescence to American demands may have been unjustified. Certainly he didn’t exact a high enough price for his sacrifice.

Yet even these concessions did not change the situation on the ground. Shamir did not agree to give the Arabs any land. And during his tenure the US significantly upgraded its strategic ties with Israel.

Moreover, from the perspective of Israel’s long-term viability and prosperity, Shamir exacted the greatest concession Israel ever gained from the US. He convinced Bush to stop steering Soviet Jewish émigrés to the US and away from Israel. This ensured that one million Soviet Jews made aliya. The Soviet Jewish aliya fundamentally transformed Israel’s economy and demographic posture, and upgraded its strategic position. Whatever damage Israel may have incurred as a result of Shamir’s concessions to Bush was likely outweighed by his success in bringing Soviet Jews to Israel.

And it is true that Shamir was never beloved or even liked by the US government or the leaders of Europe. But it is also true that during his tenure in office major countries, including China and India, renewed their diplomatic relations with Israel.

By standing up for his country, he earned the respect of the world – not just for himself, but for Israel as a whole. And in international affairs it is far more important to be respected than liked.

In his obituary for Shamir, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner explained that Shamir was a successful leader because he was intelligent and tenacious.

Aviner noted that Shamir’s intelligence was hard-earned. He took the time to learn the details of every subject he had to contend with. He was a voracious reader and wanted to gather as much information as possible before he made decisions.

Shamir’s devotion to learning made it possible for him to intelligently weigh the costs and benefits of various courses of action.

Aviner wrote that Shamir’s tenacity was a consequence of his life experiences. He was the commander of the Stern Group (Lehi) guerrilla force in pre-state Israel. He was imprisoned and escaped, twice. He was a Mossad officer. At each stage of his life, he faced great challenges and overcame them.

And each experience steeled him for the next until he gradually became the force to be reckoned with he was as prime minister.

It is important to recognize that Shamir was the product not only of his times, but of his values and of the choices that he made throughout his extraordinary career.

The greatest compliment one can pay another person is to say that he is a model to be emulated, and that his life should serve as an example for what a good life can and should be.

We were blessed to have had him as our leader. And his memory should be a blessing in the annals of Jewish history.

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  • Nakba1948

    Nonsense. Shamir was a terrorist through and through, whether as a member of Lehi or in his position as Prime Minister of the terrorist bandit entity known as "Israel." Good riddance to bad rubbish. http://consortiumnews.com/2012/07/02/yitzhak-sham

    • Lan Astaslem

      listen you mus slime pile of s*&t, Shamir was one of the best because he didn't take any crap from the 'palestinians' (the invented people). Israel is here to stay you pathetic loser – get used to it.

      • EthanP

        Please. Nakba 1948 can't help it. He/she has been raised on the most vile propaganda. Your annalysis is correct. But insults etc. should not appear on this site.

    • EthanP

      And after saying what I did to Lan, the fact that you proudly celebrate the death of a human being says more about YOU than anything any commentator could.

    • NotaBene

      He was also pen pals with Hitler.

      He and the rest of the Revisionist gang used to proudly call themselves fascists before the word became taboo.

  • EthanP

    Shamirs crime as seen by the media and much of the world Jewish community was that unlike Ben Gurion, Weitzman, Eban et al, he wasn’t a man of the left. Like Begin and Netenyahu he suffers the stigma of not being one of “us”, liberal, secular, forward looking Jews. Begining with the Clinton administration, the US Democrate Party has expended considerable effort to get and keep Likud out of power. Shamir deserves to be remembered for what he was, a Jewish-Israeli patriot. And no one with integrety can gainsay that!

  • clarespark

    It is true that young Shamir was in the Stern Gang, a splinter of the Irgun. It is true that the Stern Gang was responsible for the assassination of Count Bernadotte, whose plan for Israel would have given the Negev to the UK, who wanted it for a military base. Had the Irgun not driven the British from Palestine, the UK would probably still hold the Mandate. I wrote about the early UN undermining of the Nov. 1947 partition resolution briefly here: http://clarespark.com/2009/09/11/oil-politics-and…. But only briefly, as the story is so volatile that I have procrastinated in publishing all of what I found. Toward the end of the blog, I give a hint as to what I found in the archives. There was one and only one reason Israel exists today. In 1948, Israelis took terrific casualties in defense of their country. It scared their neighbors into coming to the armistice table.

  • UCSPanther

    It was through the courage and hard work of people like Shamir that the wealthy, thriving oasis known as Israel was founded.

    Israel has become an outpost of law and order, democracy and tolerance, all virtues found virtually nowhere else in the Middle East.

  • Michael

    All you rightists need to do your research. After the summer of 1946 i.e. in the most crucial period, the Lehi were a group of the left. Here's a message they put out:

    "Our Arab neighbour is not our enemy. No stranger to this land; he lives amongst us and will continue to do so after the last British soldier has departed."

    If you can't read Hebrew, then get a copy of Joseph Heller's 'Stern Gang' book. Identifiably a group of the left for much of its existence.

    @ clarespark

    "Had the Irgun not driven the British from Palestine, the UK would probably still hold the Mandate."

    Doubt it. They left everywhere else, why would Israel/Palestine be different?

  • http://minecraft-servers.biz Melisa

    Thank you all for your replies.There is no need to do that.

  • Folke Bernadotte

    The world would have been a better place if Icchak jeziernicky had not been born, he and others of his stamp who invaded the land of Palestine are responsible for much of the misery in the world today, may he and his ilk rot in hell.