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Hardline former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir dead at 96 (NATIONAL POST) National Post Wire Services JERUSALEM 07/01/12) Source: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/30/hardline-former-israeli-prime-minister-yitzhak-shamir-dead-at-96/
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JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who clung throughout his life to the belief that Israel should hang on to territory and never trust an Arab regime, has died. He was 96 years old.
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Israeli media said he died at a nursing home in Herzliya Saturday, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement mourning Shamir’s death.
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Shamir served as prime minister for seven years, from 1983-84 and 1986-92, leading his party to election victories twice, despite lacking much of the outward charm and charisma that characterizes many modern politicians. He was the second longest-serving prime minister after Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion
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Barely over five feet tall and built like a block of granite, Shamir projected an image of uncompromising solidity at a time when Palestinians rose up in the West Bank and Gaza, demanding an end to Israeli occupation.
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Defeated in the 1992 election, he stepped down as head of the Likud party and watched from the sidelines as his successor, Yitzhak Rabin, negotiated interim land-for-peace agreements with the Palestinians.
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The agreements, including Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s recognition of Israel, did nothing to ease his suspicion.
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In a 1997 interview with the New York-based Jewish Post, he declared: “The Arabs will always dream to destroy us. I do not believe that they will recognize us as part of this region.”
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He embraced the ideology of the Revisionists — that Israel is the sole owner of all of the biblical Holy Land, made up of Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
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The Labor movement, in power for Israel’s first three decades, agreed to a 1947 UN-proposed partition plan to allow the creation of the Jewish state alongside a Palestinian entity. To Shamir and other Revisionists, that was tantamount to treason.
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In later years, asked his view of territorial compromise for peace, Shamir said often that Israel had already given up 80% of the Land of Israel — a reference to Jordan.
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Born Yitzhak Jazernicki in Poland in 1915, he moved to pre-state Palestine in 1935. He joined Lehi, the most hardline of three Jewish movements resisting British mandatory authorities, taking over the Lehi leadership after the British killed its founder.
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Captured and deported to Eritrea in 1946, the diminutive, beetle- browed Shamir missed much of the fighting that led to Israel’s founding two years later. Upon his return, he found himself out of step with the country’s left-leaning political leadership of the day.
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The Mossad spy service provided Shamir a back door to power. Recruited in 1955, Shamir clambered up the Mossad’s ranks during shadow wars with Middle East foes and international hunts for Nazi fugitives.
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He credited a posting in France with lending some refinement to his style – “the scenery, the way people looked, the food, the wine, Piaf,” he would later say – and prepared him for his 1980 breakthrough as foreign minister for the rightist Likud party.
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Shamir was a distrustful diplomat. Prime Minister Menachem Begin had signed a landmark peace accord with Egypt in 1979, yet Shamir bristled at Cairo’s insistence that Israel make way for Palestinian independence.
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“Judea and Samaria are an integral part of the land of Israel, neither ’captured’ … nor ’returnable’ to anyone,” he said, using biblical terms for the occupied West Bank.
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Ruined by Israel’s 1982 Lebanon invasion, Begin resigned and was succeeded by Shamir, who would later enter an awkward coalition with Shimon Peres’ left-wing Labour party in which the two leaders rotated the premiership between them.
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It was a time of turbulence in Israeli politics and life. Shamir was forced to crack down on challenges from a new Jewish underground made up of West Bank settlers, who attacked Arab notables and a Jerusalem mosque, and from the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 1987.
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Rather than seek accommodation with the Palestinians, Shamir championed new settlements and the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Soviet and Ethiopian Jews in a bid to maintain Israel’s Jewish demographic identity.
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Although known as a hardliner, Shamir nonetheless showed teeth- gritting restraint during the 1991 Gulf War. At the urging of the United States, he held Israel’s fire in the face of Scud missile salvoes by dictator Saddam Hussein rather than retaliate and endanger the U.S. alliance with Arab powers battling to expel Iraq from Kuwait.
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His forbearance on that occasion drove home Israel’s subordination to Washington’s Middle East interests.
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“I can think of nothing that went more against my grain as a Jew and a Zionist, nothing more opposed to the ideology on which my life has been based, than the decision I took … to ask the people of Israel to accept the burden of restraint,” Shamir said later.
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His pleasure at the 1996 election victory of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu soured when Netanyahu continued to negotiate with the Palestinians and carry out land-for-security deals.
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Before the 1999 election, Shamir resigned from the Likud and joined a new right-wing block called National Union, headed by Begin’s son, Ze’ev Binyamin.
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The party, which rejected any turnover of land to the Palestinians, won only four seats in parliament, though it had seven members of the outgoing legislature on its list.
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In 2001, Shamir was given his nation’s highest civilian honour, the Israel Prize awarded annually to outstanding citizens in several fields.
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No date has yet been set for a funeral. (© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 07/01/12)
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