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June 30, 2012

Former Israeli Prime-minister Yitzhak Shamir dies

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yitzhak Shamir, 1915 – 2012

Yitzhak Shamir and Caspar Weinberger in 1982

Yitzhak Shamir, Prime-minister of Israel has died today at a nursing home in Tel Aviv at the age of 96. The cause of death was announced as alzheimer’s disease. Shamir was born Icchak Jaziernicki on October 15, 1915 in Różana, Belarus. he was prime minister from 20 October 1986 to 13 July 1992.

Although Shamir had a reputation as a Likud hard-liner, in 1977 he presided at the Knesset visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the peace talks; in 1981 and 1982, as Foreign Minister, he guided negotiations with Egypt to normalize relations after the treaty and directed negotiations which led to the 1983 agreement with Lebanon (subsequently abrogated by the Lebanese Parliament).

His failure to stabilize Israel’s inflationary economy led to an indecisive election in 1984, after which a national unity government was formed between his Likud party and the Alignment led by Shimon Peres. As part of the agreement, Peres held the post of Prime Minister until September 1986, when Shamir took over.

As he prepared to reclaim the office of prime minister, which he had held previously from October 1983 to September 1984, Shamir’s hard-line image appeared too moderate. However Shamir remained reluctant to change the status quo in Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors, and blocked Peres’s initiative to promote a regional peace conference as agreed in 1987 with King Hussein of Jordan in what has become known as the London Agreement. Re-elected in 1988, Shamir and Peres formed a new coalition government until 1990, when the Alignment left the government, leaving Shamir with a narrow right-wing coalition.

In 1991 the Shamir government took part in the Madrid peace talks and ordered the rescue of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, known as Operation Solomon. The Shamir government also decided not to retaliate after the Iraqi Scud missile volleys (many of which struck Israeli population centers) during the First Gulf War. The United States urged restraint, saying Israeli attacks would jeopardize the delicate Arab-Western coalition assembled against Iraq. Although long a hard-liner, Shamir left office in 1992, after his government fell amid charges that Likud – by taking part in the Madrid Peace Conference – had effectively agreed to enter negotiations over Palestinian autonomy in the Israeli-occupied territories.

President Shimon Peres stated: “Yitzhak Shamir was a brave warrior for Israel, before and after its inception. He was a great patriot and his enormous contribution will be forever etched in our chronicles.”

his wife Shulamit died in July 2011.

Shamir is survived by two children.


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