How Yitzhak Shamir Saved Israel’s Relationship with Jordan, Brought in a Million Soviet Jews, and Helped Create an Economic Miracle

Sept. 6 2022

Born in a shtetl in what is now Belarus in 1915, Yitzḥak Shamir came to the Land of Israel in 1935, where he later joined the underground Zionist group known as the Leḥi and was eventually imprisoned by the British mandatory authorities. After Israeli independence, he served for several years in the Mossad before entering politics. He held the post of prime minister from 1983 to 1984, and again from 1986 to 1992, leading the nation during the first intifada, the Iraqi Scud-missile attacks of the Persian Gulf war, and the Madrid peace talks with the Palestinians. Although Shamir, who died in 2012, is remembered in a positive light by large numbers of Israelis, he is much less admired by journalists and academics.

Erez Fridman and Igal Lerner, who have recently released a documentary about Shamir, discuss his legacy with his son Yair Shamir, the historian Martin Kramer, and the marketing executive Noa Cacharel. Among much else, they highlight the role of Israel’s seventh prime minister in cultivating peace with Jordan, in orchestrating the Russian aliyah, and in transforming the Jewish state into the start-up nation. (Moderated by Naomi Reinharz. Video, 62 minutes.)

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Read more at America-Israel Friendship League

More about: Aliyah, Israeli economy, Israeli history, Jordan, Yitzhak Shamir

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship