Mr. Yitzchok Shamir, Former Prime Minister State of Israel passed away on Shabbos @ age 96. Below is an interview Rabbi Chaim Dalfin had with Shamir in 1995.
The interview can be found in Dalfin's book "Conversations with the Rebbe", you can purcchase the book online @ www.jewishinfo.org
CD (Chaim Dalfin) Mr. Shamir please tell a little about yourself and the your association with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Where were you born and what year did you come to Israel?
YS (Yitzchok Shamir) I came here in 1935 from eastern Poland. Now it’s Belarus. Vuzhinoy, it was a small shtetl of Misnagdim, not any Chasid was there. It was near Slonim, that area. Now it is White Russia. I visited my shtetl two years ago, but I found nothing. The only part that still exists is a small part of the cemetery. The Goyim were very nice, the Prime Minister gave me the use of a helicopter from Minsk, they escorted me. The last Jew died there five years ago.
I was active in Irgun and in the Lehi movement during the World War, before the war, and after it, until the establishment of the State of Israel. Then I was active in the Mosad for 10 years. I came back after a short interruption in private business to join Herut, and then Likut in 1969-70. That began my political career. I was elected to the Knesset, then became Foreign Minister, Prime Minister. I am now a Member of the Knesset but already not very active.
I never met the Rebbe personally. Of course, I’ve known a lot about him. I have met many people who met him. I was very impressed by all his activities, first by his initiative in starting activities for the rescue of the Soviet Jews. I was personally active in this undertaking, before joining Herut. That was around 1966-67.
After the Six Day War, in the Soviet Union there began to develop various Jewish movements, trying to make Aliyah. The Aliyah began thanks to the Six Day War. I was a member of a group that established contacts with those people active in the underground in Russia. From them I learned that the Rebbe of Chabad sent Shlichim there, before us. Since then I admired him. I saw in him a man who felt the responsibility to be the one who has to take on himself the responsibility to take care of all the Jewish people, everywhere in the world.
I was very sensitive to many critical situations where Jewish people found themselves. It was not important where, or in which conditions. It could be in Russia or in a forgotten small place in an Arab land. He sent Shlichim to help them.
After the war it was well known that the Rebbe took a very strong position on the fate of the territories taken by us in the war. He became the spiritual leader of the whole movement that fought for keeping and not giving up these parts of Eretz Yisroel which came to our possession.
Afterwards, when I became a member of the Herut, then of the Knesset and of the government, we established contact, mainly by letters and oral messages. Many people involved with him came to see me and to bring messages that encouraged me, and convinced me to stay strong and to keep all that we have in Eretz Yisroel, not to give the Arabs what we have liberated.
This contact with the Rebbe gave me a lot of strength and courage. I have met many people who have been his Chassidim, and since they have known that someone who is a Chasid of the Rebbe, we can count on him that he will always be with us. I saw he was very strongly convinced in his teachings about the faithfulness to Eretz Yisroel, to Yerushalayim. He tried even to help us in our political struggle. He became an expert on the political conditions inside Israel. Sometimes he helped us through his contacts with many people of good will, in keeping our government.
We have been attacked and threatened by our rivals, the leftists. I remember one special moment when Mr. Peres, who is now the Foreign Minister, tried to topple my government by getting a majority. He almost got it, but the Rebbe made an effort. He did not give him the possibility to get a majority, because of his influence on two members of the Knesset. There was constant communication by telephone, and the Rebbe got reports on what is going on here, and how important is his efforts not to let them take over the government.
At that time some of the religious parties were very important, they had the force to make a difference.
The crisis began with the decision of the “Shas” people to leave our government. The Rebbe didn’t have an influence on these people, so he found two men, Rav Werdiger and Mizrachi, and convinced them to stay strong against all the pressures. And there were pressures on them.
Mr. Peres did not succeed in liquidating our government, and we continued our activity for more than two years, which was very important. I felt very strongly the effect of the Rebbe and his determination to stand with us and to help us in everything. I remember he sent me one of his men, Rav Gutnick, from Australia, with instructions to stand by us and help us in keeping contact with all the religious parties in Israel, and to maintain the unity around our government, and he was successful.
I got, from time to time letters from the Rebbe, mainly about these issues of Eretz Yisroel, until we couldn’t continue. I regret this very much. His men continued his work according to his instructions, but it couldn’t have the same strength and the same impact as it was.
Since then, my relations with the Chabad movement continues. I am very happy to see their people, to help them and be helped by them in convincing the majority of the Jewish people to stay by what the Rebbe has said, to deep Eretz Yisroel in its integrity, its entirety.
We are still going on, till this day. I hope that the Chabad movement will continue to stay strong in this struggle.
CD Do you have any letters which the Rebbe sent you in the earlier years? Did you speak by phone with his secretaries during your years in the government?
YS The letters were very short. It was always in the hands of a Shaliach. I didn’t get letters about Russia, but I think the Rebbe knew about my activity there and my admiration for the work of his people there. There have been some calls, not personally by me, but by those who worked with me, Eli Rubinstein and others. They did whatever they could. The Rebbe gave very strong instructions to stand with us all the time.
CD What’s going to be now.
YS It’s a very bitter situation now. I never imagined that they would come to such decisions and such actions on the ground. No one imagined they would dare to do such acts against the interests of the people of Israel. Not just against the dreams, the inspirations, the halachot, but even against the daily interests, the security interests of our people here.
There is not anything which could explain these positions. We cannot understand what is the motivation of Rabin and Peres. After all, we have not been defeated Chas VeSholom in war. We have been victorious all the time. We are under absolutely no pressure. We are not compelled to do anything we don’t want to do.
I cannot understand what they want!! The Jewish state could be today in the best condition we have ever been in our history. Baruch Hashem, we have a lot of Jewish people. It’s not enough, but Baruch Hashem it’s the only place in the world where the Jewish people are multiplying. We can go forward. In every sector of life we are making progress, and we can make more progress -- in the economy, in military strength, in technology, in Aliyah. We had this massive immigration from Russia, and we could continue, if the government cared.
I cannot understand why the situation is getting worse and worse. We are going to lose the Golan Heights. I don’t know why. It’s the only strategic stronghold we have in the north of our country. Syria is a bitter, dangerous enemy. It’s never said or done anything which might express some change in their attitude. The moment we leave the Golan Heights we will get much weaker. It will be like an invitation to the Syrians to come and invade us. They will come, they will get the shores of the Kinneret.
As far as Yehuda and Shomron, and Gaza, they are the cradle of our people. Hebron and all the other places. Why do we have to leave? We can develop more and more and more. It’s a miracle that we have there Jewish people, wonderful people, who are ready to sacrifice themselves, to live and work and stay against all the dangers and threats.
Then there is Yerushalayim. When I was Prime Minister, no one even imagined that one day we would lose a part of Jerusalem. Now, first of all Mr. Rabin permitted the Arab residents of Jerusalem to participate in the autonomy elections. We were always against this. For us Yerushalayim was not a part of Yehuda and Shomron. We said that it was a national concern that all of Jerusalem should be under the control of the State of Israel.
Rabin and Peres are still saying the same thing, but their actions are the opposite. They have given them permission to participate in their elections. Now there are special negotiations with the Arabs about “the fate of Jerusalem.” We never agreed to such things. Our position, and Begin’s position, was that we have nothing to negotiate. This is our capital.
Now, when in the United States there is an influential group in the Senate that wants to bring the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, our government is against it, because Arafat is against it.
We could not imagine this! Since the beginning of the State, it was the dream of all the Israeli governments, that one day America would recognize our rights in Jerusalem and agree that their embassy, like the embassy in all countries, will be in the capital. If America does it, all the other countries will follow. With such an opportunity, they are against it, because Arafat is against it. This means that Arafat dictates our policy!
What we did in the Oslo agreements was the reason, the real reason, for many terrorist acts by the Arabs, acts that succeeded in killing tens of Jewish people. After the control of the security of Gaza was given to the Arabs, they made use of it. They have organized in Gaza many terrorist acts that were carried out in other places, Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv. Gaza was the center!!
Now, after three months of quiet, they want to give up security arrangements to the Arabs in all the other cities of Yehuda and Shomron, Bet Lechem and Ramallah, and Tulkarem, Jenin, Kalkilia, and so on. The same thing that happened in Gaza will happen in Yehuda and Shomron. It will be a real danger to the existence of our people, not only of the mitnachalim [settlers] who live there, but everyone.
Until now all the countries of the world respected us. They know Israel is strong. Now they are watching carefully, they are not doing anything, but they are waiting till we give these parts of the land back to the Arabs, then all these countries will feel safe that Israel will not be able to change the situation.
I hope they will not succeed in all this before the elections in November 1996, which is more than a year. If they lose, it could of course be an opportunity to save the land of Israel, the people of Israel. Chabad is not a mass movement. You don’t have millions. But I think thanks to the spirit of the Rebbe you have a great amount of energy, and I see you are able to do many things.
For example, a few days ago I was in Paris, and the people who were on the side of Likud, together with the Chabad people in Paris, organized a great demonstration for Yerushalayim, and to celebrate an anniversary of the educational work of Chabad in Paris. They have a big school there. They have done something important for the education of the Jewish Youth.
They invited me to participate, and a large crowd came to this demonstration, 15,000 people. Paris is not New York. The Chabad people, the Likud people, many Jewish people. It was a very impressive demonstrationn. You know there Rabbi Pewsner, I was in their synagogue. I spoke. It’s nice, it’s Yiddishkeit.
We have to work together. Of course I hope that you become stronger and stronger. I do not know how it will happen without the Rebbe, but...
CD You said earlier that the people of Israel are basically against what Rabin and Peres are trying to do. I was on a plane a year ago back from Eretz Yisroel, and I asked the person sitting next to me. He said at least 50% of the country supports their giving back of territory.
YS I do not know exactly. Such things cannot be known precisely without elections. They are the test, but we have to work before the elections.
CD Have you seen the Rebbe’s Shluchim throughout the country?
YS We meet from time to time. The last time in America I spent a day in Columbus, Ohio. I met there by accident Rav Krinski, who had been invited by the Schottenstein family. When I was in Miami I met there also a Shaliach, Sholom Ber Lipskar. I visited his shul. He is a very strong personality. In the shul he is the balebos, boss. You have good people in many places. I trust you are getting more
CD One of the arguments of the Labor government is that they want to make Israel the Switzerland of the Middle East. Aside from giving up the land, what is the politicaly wrong with that idea?
YS Ay [krechtz] Narrishkeiten, nonesense. Speaking pragmatically, they have said our economy will get a lot of profit. At this moment we have seen nothing, because our economy is based on cooperation with the Western countries, America, Europe, even the Far East. With the Arabs, nothing. It is three years already since the Oslo conference, and we see nothing. The attitude of the Arab countries, Syria, the Palestinians has not changed. There are now investments in the country of Jewish people, some Goyim too, but no Arabs. When we try to speak with them about business, they shout, “Now you want to dominate us economically!” they don’t trust us. Therefore we cannot trust them. They are enemies, enemies in blood. This is very deep. You can’t discuss anything with them.
CD what about the Jordanians?
YS The King is a bit more polite, but the country is very weak in the area. It has no support from anybody. The Arabs don’t like him, the Egyptians hate him, the Saudis hate him. He doesn’t have any friends. He depends for his existence only on us. Therefore he is more polite, but he will never say a word that the other Arabs don’t say.
All the others, the PLO say they want Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian state. Their representative in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, a nephew of the pogromchik Abd El Kader Husseini, who fought against us in 1948, and was killed by us, and this man is now the representative in Jerusalem of Arafat. He said a few days ago, “What we want is to come back to the situation (in Jerusalem) as it was before 1967.” Of course, since then there have been built around Jerusalem housing for 200,000 Jews. Does he want to remove them?
Now Arafat has decided to divide the city of Jerusalem, to establish in the eastern part an Arab municipality of Jerusalem, and our government doesn’t say a word. They say of course it’s nothing, but they don’t even protest. They could have said to Arafat that if he speaks about Jerusalem as the capital of his country, they will stop the negotiations. After all, the Palestinians depend on us, not we on them.
Nothing, nothing. It is clear that if they continue their government, they will give up Jerusalem. I don’t know how we will be able to exist. Of course in such a situation Aliyah will not come. The massive Aliyah started after the Six Day War, when Jews got courage. We were strong! It was in the time of Khrushchev, of Brezhnev, and the Russians wrote letters to them that they wanted to go to Israel, Israel is our country, not Russia.
If we will be weak, who will dare to speak in this way? And this applies also to all other countries. It is sad, very sad. What the Labor Party wants, their only motivation is to stay in power. They think that if they continue the negotiations with the Arabs, they will keep quiet one more day at a time, there will not be terror.
And [since] Jews prefer a quiet life, they are confident that the people will accept it and they will continue being in power. This is the whole story.
Yesterday Rabin said he has his doubts if the Palestinians will work together with us. Nu, he has his doubts! What are the conclusions? Nothing!
On the other hand, Peres is very strong in his convictions that territory is not important. The main thing is that these Arabs are not fundamentalists, because our only enemies are the fundamentalists. This is silly. The Syrians are not fundamentalists, but they are very strong against us. The Iraqis who sent the scuds are not fundamentalists. They are friends of ours? They are ready at any moment to send new scuds.
I have the impression that something happened to the spirits of these people, to their equilibrium, because it’s unbelievable. You can’t imagine what they are thinking, what they are doing. I can understand it’s important to them to be in power, but this is more important than the fate of Eretz Yisroel, of the Jewish people?
I don’t believe they will succeed with all this. They say they need the approval of the world. The world was not against us! During my premiership the world respected us. With Bush we had some clashes, with the loan, but he was the only one. Since the Six Day War they started to respect us, to see in us a strong factor in the area. We have developed strategic cooperation that has been very important up to this day.
When they see that we are giving up all our strongholds, we are capitulating, they will lose this respect. After all, they are flesh and blood. They have their assessment of their self-interest, and no one wants to be partners with weaklings, nobody.
When I was Prime Minister, in spite of all these declarations about Palestinian freedom by all these countries, they decided to establish normal ties and do business with us. China, India, the African countries, Spain and so on. Now... Of course, for the Goyim it is easier to see that we are less strong, that our positions are weak on Jerusalem. Of course, for the Christians it is better that Jerusalem not be the capital of the Jewish state, but when we are strong they accept it.
This was always the position of the Rebbe. You have to be strong, and then the Goyim will respect you. It’s logic.
CD You said before America does not pressure. I remember Christopher was pressuring.Bush was using the loans as a means to get Israel to do what America wants.
YS This is pressure? For America, it is convenient for them to make a ceremony on the lawn of the White House. It gives some credit to President Clinton, it could help him in is reelection, but it’s not so important that it could change the character of the relationship with us. These loans are nonesense. No more. It was unique to Bush, Bush knows, and anyway he is convinced that because of it he lost the presidency. He says it everywhere. He says he lost because the Jews decided to vote against him, and they have great influence. The other presidents have never dared to make such pressures. Carter is not a friend of us, and we had some conflicts with him. In the first year after “Camp David”, he told us, “We have some difference of views, but I will never make use of economic and security assistance to enforce my opinions.” He kept his promise. Even at the most strained times he never threatened us in these things.
Bush was the first. He was an exception because he did not like us. He decided that the Arabs are right. Secretary Baker told me, “the President is convinced that the Arabs are right and you are wrong. These territories belong to them.” He couldn’t give me an explanation why. Clinton, he is all right. He is supporting the government. He cannot be more Israeli than the Israeli’s themselves!
CD When the scuds were falling, it seemed like Israel was sitting back.
YS We had decided that in such a situation, where the Americans are fighting very seriously against the Iraqis, and there was no doubt about the victory -- only that it might take a few days more or less, and on the other hand the Arabs might leave Bush’s coalition. Why should we be responsible for breaking the coalition and endangering the victory against Iraq?
I think we were right. There was a little damage -- of course every Jew is indispensible --but there was no alternative. I told Bush that I was against this because we want to defend ourselves, but in this situation, if something happens to us we will consult him.
He realized that my saying we would consult him did not mean we would listen in all cases. We consulted, and we decided as we decided. It turned out good for everyone. After this crisis everybody respected us. I visited in America and in Europe, and people called me a great statesman. We were respected. It was no justification to get into a clash with the United States, considering they fought our enemy.
CD Let us hope for true peace.
YS That’s a totally different matter. Not like the false prophets in the book of Jeremiah, “Peace, peace and there is no peace.” What we have now, is not peace. Not that you can trust what the Arabs say, but they never say themselves that there will be peace. Their chutzpah is growing from day to day.
CD Arafat himself. How did he get this prominence?
YS Thanks to us, to Rabin and Peres. They gave him the power. They gave him arms and money, and thanks to us he’s getting arms and money from America and everywhere else. They do not have a dollar that does not come from us, and they have the Chutzpah to tell us we have to give up what we got in ‘67, up to the last centimeter. It’s terrible.
It has no logic. I do not believe it can continue.
CD Does the Likud have any plan to counter this?
YS The only plan is to change the situation via elections. We cannot allow ourselves to use violence --- we will not raise our hand against Jewish people. This is worse than all the other things. It will not be useful, on the contrary.
CD You have the Rebbe’s brochos. I have heard the Rebbe speak many times about how we cannot give back a speck of land.
YS This was not only the word of a great man. It was logic. Sechel HaYashar [straight thinking].
CD Thank you for your time. I wish you success. Der Aibershter zol helfen [May G-d help]!