Saturday, June 30, 2012

Barry Rubin: Former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir Dies at 96: A Personal Memory

by Barry Rubin

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has just died at the age of 96. Rather than discuss his broader career, I’d like to tell you about my most memorable meeting with him.

It was January 13, 1991. Everyone in the world knew that in 48 hours, a U.S.-led coalition was scheduled to attack Iraq in order to force Saddam Hussein’s withdrawal from Kuwait. Saddam had announced that if the coalition attacked he would strike at Israel with long-range missiles, possibly with biological or chemical warheads.

I was asked by a visiting American delegation to accompany it to a meeting with the prime minister. We arrived at the prime minister’s office and went to his quite modest meeting room. Along with Shamir was Elyakim Rubinstein, then the cabinet secretary but today a Supreme Court justice. I won’t tell you who the Americans were but I’d love to do so and perhaps will some day but the group’s leader, let’s call him Mr. Bird, later held high diplomatic positions in the U.S. government.

Shamir sought to break the ice with a friendly question. “So,” he said to the delegation’s leader, “how long are you planning to be here? A week?”
I don’t know if he was joking about the impending deadline but a look of pure fear and panic leaped onto Mr. Bird’s face. “Are you kidding!” His voice shook with dismay. “We’re getting out of here tomorrow!” (Those were his precise words.)
Continue reading Former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir Dies at 96: A Personal Memory

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, was published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reportsand  Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media 

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