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article imageFormer Israeli PM, Yitzhak Shamir, dies at 96

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By Layne Weiss     Jun 30, 2012 in World
Tel Aviv - Former Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, has died at the age of 96, Reuters is reporting. Shamir fought for the Jewish Underground, and would later serve as Israel's prime minister longer than anyone besides David Ben-Gurion.
Shamir had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for at least the last 6 years, one of his associates told The NY Times. Shamir died Saturday at a nursing home.
Born in Poland, Shamir moved to Israel to join the fight for Israeli independence, CNN reports.
He joined the Likud movement, serving as a member of parliament, and also worked for Mossad, Israel's intelligence service.
In 1983, Shamir succeeded Menachem Begin as prime minister. He served as prime minister from 1983-1984, and again from 1986-1992. He was also Israel's foreign minister from 1980-1986.
He retired from politics in 1992, BBC News reports.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said Shamir "was a brave warrior before and after the founding of the state of Israel," the LA Times reports. "He was loyal to his views, a great patriot, and a true lover of Israel who served his country with integrity and unending commitment."
"Yitzhak Shamir belonged to the generation of giants who established the state of Israel and fought for the Jewish people on their land," said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
According to Reuters, Shamir called peace "the only prize that can justify any war." At the same time, though, he refused to let Israel be rushed or forced into a deal. At times, he was criticized for his "hawkish" and "stubborn" views and policies. His supporters found "strength" and resolve" in his position.
"Big countries, I told myself can afford to make mistakes; small ones cannot," Shamir wrote in his memoir Summing Up.
"The truth is, that in the final analysis, the search for peace has always been of who would tire at the first struggle and blink," Shamir wrote in his autobiography.
Shamir was serving as Israel's prime minister when the Gulf War broke out. Israeli government and army officials pressured him to retaliate, but the US government urged him not to, CNN reports.
Ultimately, he granted the US' wishes and promised Washington Israel would not strike back.
According to Reuters, Shamir would later regret his decision.
"I can think of nothing that went more against my grain as a Jew and a Zionist, nothing more opposed to the ideology on which my life has been based, than the decision I took...to ask Israel to accept the burden of restraint," Shamir said.
Shamir also presiding over negotiations with Egypt on the post-treaty normalization process, CNN reports. He also started diplomatic relations with African countries that had severed relations with Israel following the Yom Kippur War.
In 1991, Shamir took part in the International Peace Conference in Madrid.
According to the LA Times, the conference paved for the way for talks between Israelis and Palestinians and led to a peace treaty with Jordan.
Yitzhak Shamir's funeral is set to take place Monday in Jerusalem, The Telegraph reports. He will be buried next to wife his wife Shulamit who died last July.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday that Shamir "dedicated his life to the state of Israel," CNN reports.
"From his days working for Israel's independence to his service as prime minister, he strengthened Israel's security and advanced the partnership between the United States and Israel."
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