Mrs. Thatcher calls on Shamir

Yet despite the differences in their backgrounds, Thatcher and Shamir were kindred spirits.

By
April 10, 2013 03:55
1 minute read.

While on a visit with prime minister Yitzhak Shamir sometime in 1991 to the West Coast of the United States, I received a call from the British Consulate- General in Los Angeles. They asked me whether Shamir would agree to a meeting with former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who happened to be in the US on a lecture tour at the same time.

I was dumbfounded. Feelings on both sides were still colored by the past. Shamir had been one of the principal leaders of Lehi, which the British called the “Stern Group,” and which they viewed, during the Mandatory days, as their fiercest enemy in Palestine.

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Nor were Shamir’s feelings toward the British completely free of bias.

But when I asked him whether he would agree to the meeting, he immediately said yes, and I informed the British Consulate accordingly.

Early the next morning, an unaccompanied Thatcher entered Shamir’s suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The two had never met before, though they were certainly aware of their respective reputations.

Yet despite the differences in their backgrounds, they were kindred spirits.

During their meeting, neither of them referred in any way to the past, or even to the Palestinian problem – which at the time was a fierce controversy between Israel and the US on settlements and loan guarantees. Instead they concentrated on current world issues.



Both were proud of their respective countries and bonded over their personal relationships with America and its leaders. They also shared a history of temporary disagreements with the above – Thatcher with her good friend Ronald Reagan and in the Falklands affair (at least initially), and Shamir more or less on a continual basis with the Bush administration.

From the conversation, one could infer that Thatcher and Shamir were on common ground about the importance of strong leadership, both individually and with regard to the role that democracies must play in confronting the threats that face them.

After almost an hour, the “Iron Lady” took leave of someone who, in his own right, could be called an “Iron Man.” It was clear that both had enjoyed the meeting.

The writer is a former ambassador to the United States.


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