The integrity of ‘no’
Do not negotiate on your core ideology. This is what guided Shamir in his steadfast defense of the rights of the Jewish people.
Yitzhak Shamir Photo: Jim Hollander / Reuters
The people of Israel lost a true leader with the passing of Yitzhak
Shamir. Before assuming the reins as our seventh prime minister, Shamir
dutifully served his people and his country first as head of the underground
Lehi, then in the Mossad where he was responsible for tracking down and
eliminating some of our worst enemies including Nazi war criminals who had fled
to Egypt, and finally in the political arena where he served as a member and
then speaker of Knesset, foreign minister and finally prime minister after the
resignation of his mentor Menachem Begin.
Upon the death of a loved one,
we often take the time to look through the memory book of their life and search
for the lessons their legacy can teach us. In the case of Yitzhak Shamir, a
multi-volume set of thick-bound tomes might be more a appropriate metaphor.
These books are filled with the earth of the whole land of Israel, and immersed
in values and an understanding of our unique place in history. His spirit and
his values are an inspiration to all of those who love this land, and especially
to the members of his beloved Likud movement that strives to stay true to
You do not negotiate on your core
This is what guided Shamir in his steadfast defense of the
rights of the Jewish people to their historic homeland. In the years he guided
Israel’s foreign policy, he would not compromise on this basic tenet. In 1992,
under intense pressure from the American administration, Shamir stood fast and
made clear to the world that money cannot buy values. He bravely rejected the US
demand that he stop building in Judea and Samaria in return for loan
This money was very much needed to absorb our brothers who
were then coming home from the former Soviet Union, but Shamir knew that such an
act on his behalf would be a slippery slope that would set a terrible precedent
for the future leaders of Israel. Such a move would have endangered his
beloved settlement enterprise which he knew was invaluable for the future
wellbeing of the state.
Shamir’s decisions and policies were not always
popular or politically correct. There was no end of criticism both in Israel and
from the international community. In fact, there were times when his refusal to
abandon his core values probably cost him at the ballot box, such as when he
lost to Yitzhak Rabin in the 1992 elections. Nevertheless, over time, his
steadfastness disproved today’s assumption that you must be guided daily by
opinion polls to obtain power, and then govern.
Without ever abandoning
his beliefs, Shamir was able to not only reach the highest office in the land,
but he also ended up serving in office longer than any other prime minister
since David Ben-Gurion. Moreover, because of his intellectual honesty and core
decency, since leaving office Shamir was admired by all Israelis – whatever
their political persuasion – for the great leader that he was.
convey Shamir’s unique foresight and leadership capabilities, I must share a
short story. In the early 1990s, while serving as a Betar emissary in the United
States, I invited one of my childhood heroes to come speak to my host community.
Yitzhak graciously agreed to speak at an event I had organized promoting Israel
and aliya. When he was asked for his opinion about the demographic threat that
is so often raised, Shamir answered with full confidence that we must remain
steadfast and work tirelessly to bring millions of Soviet Jews home to
At that time, such a prediction seemed completely unrealistic,
and even a tad naïve. Nevertheless, Shamir’s analysis proved with time to be
completely accurate and proved how important it is for a leader to remain true
to his values. By believing and planning, one million Russians ultimately came
to live in Israel, changing our core demographic reality forever.
night, after he had finished addressing the group, I had the honor of spending
an evening with the former prime minister. I was enthralled with his stories and
life lessons, especially with his core conviction that a leader must truly
believe in and be ready to defend his policies. If a leader does so, he told me,
there is no need to worry about the criticism that will inevitably follow any
Yitzhak Shamir was truly made of the very fibers of which
history is woven. We must all strive to fulfill the legacy of Prime Minister
Shamir. He starkly proved that sometimes in history, saying “no” is the best
possible way to achieve “yes.” We should all do our best to remain true to our
beliefs and none of us should go to sleep at night without asking ourselves:
“What have I done today for the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and what
can I do tomorrow to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these two unwavering
commitments of the beloved Yitzhak Shamir.”
The writer, an MK, is Deputy
Speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Word Likud.