PM Netanyahu's Eulogy at the State Funeral for the Seventh Prime Minister of
Israel, Yitzhak Shamir
The Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the State of
Israel, begins with the words, "The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the
Jewish people". These two things, the Land of Israel and the Jewish people,
were always Yitzhak Shamir's top priorities. They dictated his worldview
and they always guided his policies. These two things, the Land of Israel
and the Jewish people, were uncompromising principles to Yitzhak Shamir. He
served them his entire life.
"Anonymous soldiers without uniforms". Yitzhak Shamir and his fellow
members of the Lehi underground sang these words, and that was how he lived
his entire life – with a deep awareness of service and sense of mission. He
was an anonymous soldier in the underground before the establishment of the
country. He was an anonymous soldier at the Mossad after the establishment
of the country. Later in his overt and higher official roles – Speaker of
the Knesset, Foreign Minister and Prime Minister – Yitzhak Shamir was
Even then, I was always impressed that, in his heart and through his humble
behavior, he continued to see himself as that same anonymous soldier serving
the people and the country. He never asked for any recognition or
appreciation. He did not search out popularity or respect. Every action
and decision he made had to pass one simple test – was it good for the
Jewish people and the Land of Israel?
Shamir bore on his shoulders the burden of the history of the generation
that suffered the Holocaust and experienced the rebirth on a personal and
national scale. My colleague, MK Rivlin, spoke at the meeting of the Likud
faction members yesterday and told how, at the moving ceremony of the
reading of the names, "Every Person has a Name", Shamir would speak of the
murder of his father, mother and other family members by the Nazi
collaborators. It was one of the few times when his voice would tremble.
He wholeheartedly believed that his mission as Prime Minister charged him
with the responsibility to continue the colossal historic task of returning
the Jewish people from the ends of the Earth to the land of our ancestors,
and fortifying our national home in our land.
He was stubborn and suspicious when faced with any idea that meant a
reduction in the borders of the homeland, and his loyalty to the homeland
knew no bounds. He was creative and open in the same measure when faced
with any idea that meant seizing another opportunity to continue ingathering
Yitzhak Shamir made a tremendous contribution to the immigration and
successful absorption of one million Jews from the former Soviet Union. He
believed that the immigrants would change the country's face and that they
would contribute greatly to Israel's development. He was right, of course.
He also contributed to the immigration of the Ethiopian Jews, whose
millennial yearning for Zion moved him.
He was a man of deep feelings, but he was fundamentally a practical man. He
felt that every minute of his life must be dedicated to the goals he set for
himself – for his people and his homeland. He was a man of few words, but
when he spoke, every word he said expressed the depths of his heart.
Shamir was never blinded by the glamour that accompanied his meetings with
world leaders, and he never lost his composure when faced with large and
powerful countries, even superpowers. He stood before these countries and
spoke the truth of Israel in a matter-of-fact and clear tone of voice, while
taking into account the justness of the Jewish people's path and the Land of
Israel's rights. It is no secret that some people around the world did not
agree with his positions, but I accompanied him to many meetings and I was
impressed, and you too can be impressed, that over time, world leaders
learned to appreciate and respect his strong steadfastness with regard to
Israel's national interest and security.
It was when he served as Prime Minister, even as he did not compromise his
positions, that a significant number of countries established diplomatic
relations with Israel or renewed them, including the Soviet Union, China,
India, Spain and others.
As opposed to his image as a sphinx who did not take international systems
into account, I remember that he would call me when I served as UN
ambassador – one of his many appointments of young people whom he advanced.
He was committed to advancing young people and nurturing them, and many of
them are here today, slightly less young. He would call me and ask what was
happening there, what was happening in the United States and what was
happening in relation to Israel, of course.
He wanted to discuss the smallest details. It was important to him in the
public diplomacy battle. Even when we went to Madrid, he did not go with
great enthusiasm, but that is where the dialogue towards peace talks with
our neighbors began. He thought the public diplomacy battle was the most
important fight and that it was not enough for us to be right, but rather we
should talk about this rightness as much as possible.
Beyond the fact that the good of the country as he understood it always was
a top priority, two things from his six and a half years as Prime Minister
stand out to me: firstly, Shamir recognized the importance of national
unity. It was true in 1984 when he and Shimon Peres established the unity
government, and it was true in the elections that followed when he could
have formed a narrow government and still preferred unity. Yitzhak Shamir
recognized that unity among the people was an important source of national
strength. The second thing that stood out during his tenure was the
restraint he demonstrated during the Gulf War.
It has been said many times that Shamir decided not to respond when the
missiles were falling on Israel because he did not want to weaken the
international coalition that had organized against Saddam Hussein.
However, there is an important detail in the story that is less known. When
the missiles were falling on Israel, Shamir did not sit idly by.
He sent a message to the United States through then-Defense Minister Moshe
Arens that Israel was going to move against Iraq. The United States
understood that Shamir was serious in his intentions and preparations. And
he was serious. The Americans understood that words and promises would not
suffice, but before Israel could act, a ceasefire was announced that
eliminated the need for Israeli action. If the missile fire had continued,
Israel, under Yitzhak Shamir's leadership, would have acted. That is how
Shamir was – firm, practical, full of faith, steady and totally committed to
Today we accompany him to his final rest here in the plot for Great Leaders
of the Nation, alongside his devoted wife Shulamit, his loyal partner whom
he loved with all his heart and who passed away last year. On her
gravestone is written, "Her devotion will only be released in death".
Yitzhak Shamir will be remembered as one of the nation's great leaders who
dedicated their lives to their people and their homeland, and thus will he
be written in the history of the people of Israel.
May his memory be blessed.