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
Nor were Shamir’s feelings toward the British completely free
But when I asked him whether he would agree to the meeting, he
immediately said yes, and I informed the British Consulate
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.
the differences in their backgrounds, they were kindred spirits.
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
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.