Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

Yitzhak Shamir:
"I'll never forget Arik's contribution to the security of Israel"

by Gad Nahshon

"I'll never forget Arik's contribution to the security of Israel," Shamir told me in his office in Tel-Aviv. I met the great leader after the celebration of his 85th birthday party. I asked him if he knew that many people wish that they too will reach their 85th birthday. He smiled at me. He is a lion. But he promised me that he does not have any active involvement in the recent Israeli unprecedented political turmoil. "I am not active in the Likud. I do not want to support someone actively. Of course there are good people such as Moshe Arnes. You also have to know that I am not that popular in the Likud because I have attacked Bibi, time and again. But I am not managing any policy against anybody inside the Likud," said Shamir, who keeps objecting to Bibi's comeback. I asked him: "Mr. Shamir, perhaps Bibi is not the same Bibi. Maybe he has changed his policies." Shamir did not hesitate to answer: "He did not change and he will not change." He explained: "Bibi is the one that introduced this negative system which caused the shrinking of the Likud as a big party."

Shamir was always against the new 'Basic Law: The Government.' He systematically fought against the idea of direct election of the Prime Minister, and he has blamed Bibi for its application. Indeed, this system pushed Israel into the verge of a political abyss, into a situation of political anarchy. Shamir forecasted the shortcomings of this system. His belief is: "The Likud must fulfill its principles, its ideology. The personality issue is just a marginal one."

Shamir would like to go back to the old election system although he does support election reforms. He does not have many illusions but he hopes that the Likud will go back to the old way of politics. It looks like Shamir is willing to endorse Arik Sharon. He knows that Sharon made mistakes in the past but he thinks that Sharon will fight for Israel's security and also will resist any American pressure on Israel. What about the new administration. Shamir remarked: "It is too early to figure out their behavior toward Israel. We had confrontations with Bush the father. General Powell? I think he had sympathy for us. James Baker? Recently, he spoke very nicely of me on CNN."

By the way, Shamir views Senator Joseph Lieberman as an American and not as a Jewish leader: "He does not have those principles that will turn him into a Jewish leader," said Shamir. He then discusses the issue of aliyah from the U.S. He remarked: "The problem is that one can not find, in America, any Jewish leaders who call for aliyah. American Jews must make aliyah and save Israel. We need 10 million Jews. America today is the most important source of aliyah." What about the French Jewry? "There are 700,000 Jews over there but they do not come to Israel. Why? They fall in love with the French way of life," answered Shamir who lived in France and is still popular in its political establishments.

Shamir believes that aliyah is a major issue of any Israeli government. His target is the government and not the Jewish agency. He is very critical of the government: "The first duty of any government is to push aliyah! The government is responsible for aliyah! Its first national goal and priority is the ingathering of Jews in Israel. That is the holy mission," said Shamir. Aliyah means a demographic revival of the Jewish majority in Israel.

Shamir told me who he, together with George Shultz, fought for the aliyah from Russia. He still remembers that some Jewish leaders came out to support the freedom of choice of the new Russian immigrants. Shamir told them: "There is only one way: to Israel!" Shamir is very critical of the American Jewry: "They do not fulfill their obligation. In the past there were leaders such as Abba Hillel Silver. But today we cannot find leaders in America. When Arens was ambassador in the U.S., I asked him to deal with the issue of leadership. I asked Zalman Shuval to do the same. They failed. There is a vacuum of leadership inside the American Jewish community. Ron Lauder? Edgar Bronfman? They are wealthy men but they are not leaders," stated Shamir.

He does understand the true problem: The Israeli Arabs are not loyal to Israel, Shamir believes. They view themselves as Arabs and not as Israelis. They increase their share of the Israeli population. Israel suffers from 'demographic problems' since its Jewish majority is shrinking. Shamir understands this demographic issue and views aliyah as the counter-measure to this threat. He cries out because this is a national emergency reality. That is the reason that the government must challenge this demographic issue.

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