JERUSALEM – A former Israeli leader was laid to rest Monday in a state funeral. Israelis paid their last respects to former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir as his flag-draped coffin lay in state in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
“He was a short person, but a giant as a leader,” said Yossi Ben-Aharon, who was Shamir’s chief of staff. “I admired his stubborn dedication to the state and to the people, to the Jewish people and to the Land of Israel.”
Yitzhak Shamir served two terms as Israeli prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s as head of the right-wing Likud party, the same party that rules Israel today. He supported Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and strongly opposed territorial concessions and the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I don’t believe there will be peace with the Arabs,” he once said, “because they don’t want peace.”
But under pressure from the United States, Shamir reluctantly brought Israel to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, kicking off a negotiating process based on the concept of land for peace. He was defeated in the 1992 elections, and his successor, Yitzhak Rabin, signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians a year later. That led to Israeli troop withdrawals from Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza.
In a state funeral, Shamir’s coffin was taken from the Knesset to the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, where he was laid to rest alongside other leaders of Israel. He was 96 years old.