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Yitzhak Shamir

(b. 1915) Polish-born Israeli statesman

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(b. 15 Oct. 1915).

Prime Minister of Israel 1983–4, 1986–92 Born Yitzhak Yzernitzky in Rozhinay (Poland), he became a radical Zionist while studying at Warsaw University. He emigrated to Palestine in 1935, where he finished his degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He joined the Irgun in 1936, though in 1940 he attached himself to its more radical and militant breakaway group, the Stern Gang. Captured twice by the British he escaped each time, finally finding political asylum in France before returning to the newly established state of Israel in 1948. After an initial unsuccessful attempt to enter parliament (the Knesset) in 1949, he became a businessman, a period interrupted by work for Israel's secret service (Mossad), 1955–65. Having left business, he began to work for Begin's conservative Herut Party in 1970, and represented it in the Knesset from 1973.

Shamir's loyalty to Begin was severely tested, as he opposed the Camp David Accords, which involved the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Sinai peninsula. Nevertheless, as Foreign Minister from 1980 he supervised the implementation of the agreement, while supporting the formal annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981. As Prime Minister, he was unable to achieve major legislation, as from 1984 he depended upon the fragile support of the Labour Party. Nevertheless, he continued to encourage Jewish settlement in the West Bank, while constantly frustrating efforts by the USA to find a compromise peace solution for the Middle East. He retired from political life in 1996.

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