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

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.)

Read more at America-Israel Friendship League

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

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security