Yitzhak Shamir, the seventh Prime Minister of Israel, led four governments between 1983 and 1992. Shamir was first elected in 1983, following the retirement of Menachem Begin. He served as Vice-Premier to Shimon Peres in a national unity government from September 1984 to October 1986 as part of a "rotation agreement" between the Likud and the Labor Alignment (Ma'arach) parties. He then served as Prime Minister until December 1988, when he formed the second national unity government. Shamir later led his fourth government (without the Labor Alignment) from June 1990 to July 1992.
Yitzhak Shamir was born Icchak Jeziernicky on October 22, 1915 in the Polish town of Ruzhany. He immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1935 where he joined the Zionist paramilitary IZL organization, later joining the Lehi faction when the organization split. It was Shamir, known by his underground code name "Michael", who rehabilitated Lehi following the murder of its leader Avraham (Yair) Stern, after he escaped from the Mizra detention camp. In 1946 he was captured and deported to Africa but escaped yet again, returning to Israel within days of the establishment of the State.
Yitzhak Shamir served in the Mossad from 1955-1965, establishing the organization's operational infrastructure in Europe. He joined the Herut party in 1969, where he was elected Chairman of the Party Directorate and worked to help Soviet Jewry. Four years later he was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud. Following the elections in May 1977, Shamir became the Speaker of the Knesset, presiding over the historic speech by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979. In 1980 he was appointed as the Foreign Minister in the Begin government.
Shamir also served as the Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, Minister of Labor and Welfare, Minister of Environmental Protection and Minister for Jerusalem Affairs in various governments.
Numerous achievements were made under the leadership of Prime Minister Shamir:
- Some 1 million new Jewish immigrants were absorbed from the former Soviet Union.
- Operation Solomon was conducted, airlifting 14,000 Ethiopian Jews in a single day.
- Many new towns and villages were founded throughout Eretz Israel.
- The framework for strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel was established.
- Diplomatic relations were established with some 30 countries, including China and India.
- Political initiatives (including the Madrid Conference) for direct negotiations with Arab nations and the Palestinians were undertaken.
- Uncompromising struggle was waged against the Intifada and the PLO.
- Restrained and calculated management of the Gulf War crisis and missile attacks against Israel.
- The Israeli economy was furthered to growth rates of 5-6%.
- National unity was promoted.
Following the elections to the 13th Knesset in 1992, Shamir served as a member of the Knesset opposition during the Rabin government, until he retired from political life in 1996.
On Independence Day 2001, Yitzhak Shamir received the Israel Prize for his lifetime achievements and special contribution to society and to the State of Israel – "for his relentless fight for the establishment of the State of Israel and his prolonged activity, centering upon the State, its wellbeing, safety and wholeness, undertaken with interminable zeal, love and dedication for his people and his homeland".
Yitzhak Shamir passed away on June 30, 2012 at the age of 97. He was buried in the State Leaders' section of Mount Herzl alongside his wife Shulamit, who died the previous year.
Director General, Jabotinsky Institute in Israel
Former Director of Prime Minister Shamir's Bureau