Tel Aviv: Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, has died. He was 96.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the death in a text message to journalists yesterday. The premier expressed “deep” sorrow at the passing of Shamir “who belonged to the generation of giants who established the state and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people in their homeland.”
As prime minister, Shamir set in motion the immigration of about 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union in 1989 and the airlift of some 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in May 1991. During the 1990 Gulf War, when Israel came under Iraqi missile attack, he withstood calls to retaliate, concerned such a move would unravel the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein.
Under U.S. pressure, he agreed to attend the 1991 Middle East peace conference in Madrid that marked the first public bilateral talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors as well as the start of multinational regional negotiations. Yet Shamir, a diminutive man with a white mustache, never swayed from his belief that Israel shouldn’t relinquish land for peace.