Shamir´s legacy (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 07/02/12)
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Even his most bitter detractors admit that Yitzhak Shamir was a man
of unshakable integrity, rare modesty and unparalleled courage.
Left-wing critics attacked him for his refusal to budge on the issue
of “the whole Israel” and even members of his own Likud Party viewed
him as lacking the pragmatic flexibility needed to succeed as a
mainstream politician. But even his most bitter detractors admit that
Yitzhak Shamir was a man of unshakable integrity, rare modesty and
unparalleled courage who was motivated by what he believed to be the
cardinal interests of Israel and the Jewish people.
Perhaps due to his selfless focus on doing what is right for his
people, Shamir’s principled positions have stood the test of time.
One example was his opposition to the Camp David Accord with Egypt.
Shamir was not against negotiating a peace deal with Egypt. He
understood the strategic importance of quiet on the southern border
that even a cold peace with Cairo could bring. However, Shamir, like
others on the Right at the time, felt the price Israel was paying for
such a peace was too high.
In light of Israel’s powerlessness to combat the anarchy that has
taken hold in Sinai in the past year or so, one cannot help
acknowledge Shamir’s well-founded worries regarding a complete
Israeli pullout and wonder whether Menachem Begin could have reached
a peace agreement with Egypt without compromising so much, thus
placing Israel in a better strategic position to combat lawlessness
in the peninsula.
It would be unfair and mistaken to portray Shamir as an
uncompromising ideologue out of touch with reality.
Like other proteges of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Shamir originally adopted
the Revisionist ideology that viewed “both Banks of the Jordan” as
integral parts of the Land of Israel. But like other followers of the
Revisionist movement, which later became the Herut Party, Shamir
later modified his view of what constituted “the whole Land of
Israel,” recognizing the Jordan River as its eastern border.
But Shamir refused to compromise further, rejecting as impractical
attempts to create two states – one Jewish and one Arab – between the
Mediterranean and the Jordan. Indeed, the obstacles preventing such a
solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seem no less
insurmountable today than they did when Shamir was prime minister.
Unfortunately, many on the Left, apparently unable to reconcile
themselves to the reality of an extremist, intransigent Palestinian
leadership, prefer to unfairly blame Shamir for supposedly missing
opportunities for peace. According to this narrative, which places
the blame for the ongoing conflict exclusively on Israel, it was no
other than Shamir who ruined chances for implementing the “Jordanian
In the months that led up to the first intifada, which broke out in
December 1987, then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, who had formed a
Likud-Labor national unity government with then-prime minister
Shamir, secretly met with King Hussein of Jordan at the residence of
Lord Mishcon in London.
The Left blames Shamir for torpedoing what became known as
the “London Agreement,” claiming he ruined the last chance to get
Jordan to take over responsibility for the West Bank. But in
hindsight it is difficult to see how such a Jordanian option would
have answered Palestinians’ demand for national self-determination.
If implemented, the most likely outcome would have been a complete
loss of Israeli control over final-status arrangements. And many of
the principles first laid down in the London Agreement – the
formation of an international peace conference, the acceptance of UN
Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, a Palestinian renunciation
of violence and terrorism – were unsuccessfully implemented first at
the 1991 Madrid Conference and later in the Oslo Accords.
But the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords did not fail solely or
principally because of a lack of willingness on Israel’s part.
Rather, as Shamir feared, peace has been elusive primarily because
Palestinians have consistently opted to turn to terrorism and to
cling to extremist, Islamist ideology. The 2006 Palestinian election,
won by Hamas, was the culmination of this process.
Shamir might be perceived as uncompromising. And to a large extent he
was. But because his motivations were sincere and selfless they have
survived the test of time. May his memory be for a blessing. (© 1995-
2011, The Jerusalem Post 07/02/12)
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