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One More Lesson From Shamir

Jonathan did a great service to our readers in his eulogy of Yitzhak Shamir. I would like to add one more lesson we, in the West, should take from this great man’s lifelong political career.

Since Shamir left office in 1992, for the last 20 years of his life, he kept quiet. Politicians and statesmen who lose elections these days well before their meeting with fate have the tendency to teach politics to their successors. Think of Jimmy Carter, in America; Jacques Delors, in Europe; Gareth Evans, in Australia; and Yossi Sarid or Avrum Burg, in Israel. None of these men had the decency to confront their political defeat as graciously as Shamir did. None accepted the ineluctable verdict of the poll as evidence that, whatever the merit of their convictions, the zeitgeist was against them.

Shamir did. He withdrew, like his predecessor Menachem Begin, and did not dispense wisdom or settle scores from the column of a magazine or the chairmanship of a foundation for the years he was out of office. And heaven knows he might still have had much to say. But he understood that a defeated statesman must acknowledge his loss and graciously withdraw from sight. His silence, for 20 years, is a testimony to the respect he had for the democratic process and his profoundly humbling recognition that his time as leader had passed.

This is perhaps his greatest lesson – that no leader is indispensable, that nothing can change or challenge the will of the people, and that even if time proves a leader right, it is still his duty, once office is left, to stand aloof and let others steer the ship of state.

May his memory be for a blessing.


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