Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir Dies at 96: Adamant Zionist, Former Mossad Agent

Israel's 7th Prime Minister --Yitzhak Shamir -- has died at the age of 96.... The unwavering conservative is being praised across the political spectrum as a leader who dedicated his life to the establishment and defense of the State of Israel... An avid Zionist, Shamir left his law studies in Poland at the age of 20 to move to British Mandate Palestine in 1935. Shamir quickly made a name for himself in pre-state Israel as fighter the Jewish people's right to establish a State in their historic homeland. He joined the underground paramilitary groups that planned attacks on the British, hoping to force them out. He eventually became a leader in what was considered most militant group, the Lehi or Stern Gang. His activities landed him in a British Prison in Africa, but he made a daring escape and returned to Israel during the 1948 War of Independence... In 1955, Shamir joined the Mossad when the international spy agency was in its infancy...over the next 10 years he played a critical role in building the eyes and ears of Israel was a formative experience that shaped the way he later led Israel as Prime Minister... Shamir entered Israeli politics as a hard-line Likudnik, getting elected to the Parliament in 1973. It was the retirement of Prime Minister Menachem Begin that unwittingly put Shamir in Israel's top job from 1983 to 84. In a national unity government, he was Prime Minsiter again from 1986 to 1992. Shamir was never a charismatic or inspirational leader...he was modest and straight-talking, unafraid to ruffle feathers at home or abroad...He earned a reputation as having an iron will and nerves of steel... He guided Israel through the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987 and later decided to honor US requests not to strike back when Iraqi Scuds fell on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War... Shamir believed in the Greater Land of Israel -- that Judea and Samaria -- what is otherwise known as the West Bank -- belonged to the Jews and he supported the settlement movement. International pressure, not convinction, led Shamir to participate in the Madrid peace conference in 1991. Blocking a 1987 regional peace initiative begun by Shimon Peres, Shamir had little faith that peace with the Palestinians was possible. Overshadowed later by more telegenic and charismatic Prime Ministers, like Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu -- it may be left to the historians to revisit Shamir's place in Israeli politics.

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