Israel's Leaders Attend Jerusalem Funeral of Former PM Yitzhak Shamir Staff
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Although Israel's seventh prime minister opposed securing peace through compromise with the Palestinians, he was at peace with himself, President Shimon Peres said at Yitzhak Shamir's funeral on Monday.

Shamir, a leader of the Lehi pre-state militia and the country's second longest-serving prime minister after David Ben-Gurion, was buried in a section of Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery set aside for Israeli leaders. Shamir died Saturday at the age of 96.

"Our perception of reality was different, but we were both convinced we were acting as Israelis who love their country and are loyal to their people," Peres said, recalling how he spent six years serving in the same unity government as Shamir. "Yitzhak Shamir was a man at peace with himself. Steadfast in his opinions. Winds that blew could not bend him. Passing trends did not tempt him. His ideology grew out of the history of our nation. He believed our past is what granted legitimacy to the present."

"He never tired of being firm, but neither of the necessity of restraint. He used to say restraint is power, too," Peres said. "He loathed haste and saw time as a transient, passing thing. In his eyes, history requires patience, ad sometimes obstinacy. But he believed that one who is patient will get see the desired results. He knew history does not tread in one place."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Shamir always wanted to know if his actions were good for the Jews.

"He never asked anything for himself, never wanted recognition, popularity, or honor," Netanyahu said. "Every act and decision he made were considered in the light of one question: Is it good for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel?"

Netanyahu spoke of Shamir's modesty, saying the former resistance leader was "an unknown soldier in the underground, before the formation of the state, and an unknown soldier in the Mossad after the state was formed." Even as a prominent politician, he added, Shamir always seemed as though "he continued to see himself as that unknown soldier serving the people and the state."

Debra DeLee, the president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, said in a statement yesterday that, though the left disagreed with Shamir's policies, he was "a patriot who cared deeply about his country's security and well-being."

"We did not agree with his hardline policies on peace with the Palestinians and with Israel's neighboring Arab states, but we recognized Mr. Shamir's dedication to his country and his people and his deep sense of responsibility for Israel's security," she said. Hundreds of immigrants from Ethiopia attended the funeral yesterday, some of them weeping by the open grave. As foreign minister and then as prime minister, Shamir had pushed to bring them to Israel.

Shamir's coffin was on display in the Knesset's Chagall Hall from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M., flanked by a Knesset honor guard, as military rabbis held prayer sessions. Among the many who came to pay their last respects were former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.

The funeral procession to Mount Herzl began at 5 P.M.. The Knesset honor guard carried the coffin, and was followed by Shamir's family members.

At a ceremony in the Knesset before the funeral, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Shamir had been a "steady rock" during his time in office.

"Yitzhak, once again you come to the Knesset, your second home for many years," Rivlin said. "You were a steady rock, unbreakable, carrying on your shoulders the people's journey, past and future. ... Nothing could sway you from your path. Only one weakness gnawed at you - love. Your love for this persecuted people, for the homeland, for your children and for your greatest love, to Shulamit."

Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's coffin is carried in Jerusalem. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Shamir's coffin on display in the Knesset on Monday. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi