Yitzhak Shamir’s true legacy

Within hours of the death of Yitzhak Shamir, before Israel’s seventh prime minister was even buried, Yediot Ahronoth ran a front page editorial, written by a former Israeli government official, that said that Shamir’s legacy would be “the restraint that he showed during the Gulf War in 1991… and the resultant respect that he earned from the US government” for not launching a counter-attack against the Iraq.

The article noted that “Shamir willingly withstood  the pressures of irresponsible Israelis” who demanded that Israel launch attacks at Iraq while Iraq launched 39 scud missile attacks against us.

Upon reading this skewed tribute to Shamir, I could not help but think it was a shame that Shamir could not stop and send a letter to the editor, while en route to heaven, to set the record straight.

Shamir did not willingly restrain the IDF to earn brownie points with the US.

It was the US that boxed him in.

Yitzhak Shamir (photo credit: Flash90)
Yitzhak Shamir (photo credit: Flash90)

Covering the 1991 Gulf War on special contract for CNN Radio, I was there at the Prime Minister’s Office, eye witness to the fury of Shamir and his cabinet members when the US closed off the air space and would not allow Israel to defend itself against the ferocity of Iraqi air attacks.

Few people remember that Iraqi attacks in 1991 hit 10,500 homes and destroyed 4,500 homes in Israel.

In February 1993, eight months after Shamir was out of power, I conducted an interview with him at his office in Tel Aviv. This interview  reflected Shamir’s true legacy.

I asked Shamir: “How did you stand up to the pressure of the Reagan Plan of 1982 which demanded Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, with only cosmetic changes.”

His answer: “We said no.”

“And how did you respond to the Schultz plan of 1987?”

His answer: “We said no.”

“And to the pressures from James Baker in 1991?”

His answer: “We said no.”

And then, after a few more answers in this vein, he gave me his legendary, resolute look and said, very simply, that “When we said no, they understood no.”

The ideology of the Stern underground, commanded in part by Yitzhak Shamir, was that there must be a Jewish state that could act freely and independently of all nations.

That is the legacy that Shamir wanted to be remembered for.

About the Author
David Bedein, who grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Israel in 1970 at the age of 20, is an MSW community organizer by profession and an expereinced investigative journalist. In 1987 he established the Israel Resource News Agency, with offices at the Beit Agron Int’l Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. In 1991, Bedein was the special CNN middle east radio correspondent. Since 2001, Bedein has contributed features to the newspaper Makor Rishon. In 2006, Bedein became the foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. He is the author of " The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority" and "ROADBLOCK TO PEACE- How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA policies reconsidered"and the director and producer of the numerous short films about UNRWA policy which can be located at: http://tinyurl.com/lxc6xvs