Shamir (Yazernitzki), Yitzhak

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SHAMIR (Yazernitzki), YITZHAK

SHAMIR (Yazernitzki), YITZHAK (1915– ), pre-state underground leader and Israeli prime minister, member of the Eighth to Thirteenth Knesset. Born in Ruzinoy, in Eastern Poland, Shamir studied at a Hebrew gymnasium in Bialystok, and was a member of the *Betar youth movement. He studied law in Warsaw, but immigrated to Palestine in 1935 before completing his studies and enrolled at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1937 he joined the Irgun Ẓva'i Le'ummi (iẒl), but in 1940 was one if the members who broke away from the iẒl and joined Loḥamei Ḥerut Yisrael (Leḥi), of which he was one of the founders. The following year he was arrested by the British, but managed to escape. Following the murder of the Leḥi commander, Ya'ir *Stern in 1942, Shamir became a member of the triumvirate that led the movement, and coordinated its organizational and operational activities. As one of the leaders of Leḥi, Shamir was believed to have been connected to the decision by the organization to assassinate the British Colonial Secretary, Lord Moyne, in Cairo in November 1944 – a decision executed by two members of the Leḥi. He was arrested by the British a second time in 1946, and was sent to Eritrea, but once again managed to escape, and was granted political asylum in France. He returned to Israel upon the establishment of the State, and until 1955 engaged in trade. In 1955 he was appointed to a senior post in the Mossad, in which he served until 1965, when he returned to engage in business, and played an active role in the struggle for Soviet Jewry. In 1970 Shamir joined the Ḥerut Movement, and was elected to its executive, running the party's Immigrants Department and later its Organizational Department. In 1975 he was elected chairman of the Ḥerut Executive.

Shamir was elected to the Eighth Knesset in December 1973, and was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the State Control Committee. After the elections to the Ninth Knesset in May 1977, he was elected speaker of the Knesset – the first speaker from the Likud. After the resignation of Moshe *Dayan from the government in March 1980 Shamir was appointed minister for foreign affairs in his place. He continued to serve as minister for foreign affairs in Menaḥem *Begin's second government, in the Tenth Knesset, and following Begin's resignation at the end of August 1983 was chosen as the Likud's candidate to succeed him. Shamir became prime minister in October 1983, and continued to serve simultaneously as foreign minister until September 1984. Shamir led the Likud in the elections to the Eleventh Knesset in 1984, but the election results created a stalemate between the two main parties, and a National Unity Government was established with an agreement regarding a rotation in the premiership. Thus, Labor leader Shimon *Peres served as prime minister for the first two years, with Shamir serving as vice premier and foreign minister, and from 1986 to 1988 the two switched positions. In March 1987 Shamir was formally elected as leader of the Ḥerut Movement. In May, he initiated the rejection by the government of the London Agreement, concerning the calling of an international conference on peace in the Middle East, signed between Foreign Minister Peres and King Hussein of Jordan.

Shamir led the Likud in the 1988 elections to the Twelfth Knesset, and even though he had the option to establish a narrow right-wing–religious government, preferred to establish another National Unity Government. In May 1989 – a year and a half after the outbreak of the first Intifada, he joined Minister of Defense Yitzhak *Rabin in initiating a four-part plan that included a proposal to hold elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for a local Palestinian leadership with which Israel could negotiate a settlement. However, when opposition to the plan within the Likud mounted, his position hardened, and in March 1990 the Labor Party left the government and initiated a vote on a motion of no-confidence in the government that resulted in his government falling. After Peres failed to form an alternative government, Shamir formed a narrow government in June 1990. In October 1991, Shamir participated in the Madrid Conference sponsored by the U.S. and Soviet governments. However, the Conference led to the disintegration of his government, and in the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset held in 1992 the Likud, once again led by Shamir, lost. Shamir did not resign from the Knesset, but in March 1993 Binyamin *Netanyahu was elected as chairman of the Likud. Shamir did not run in the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset, and became increasingly critical of Netanyhu's leadership and his having signed the Hebron and Wye River Agreements with the Palestinians.


A. Na'or, Ideologiyyah ve-Ivvutei Tefissah bi-Kevi'at Mediniyyut: Yiẓḥak Shamir ve-Emdat ha-Likkud be-Inyan Atid ha-Shetaḥim ha-Muḥzakim bi-Ydei Ẓahal (1998).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]