Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Yitzhak Shamir and the London Agreement, 1987

Yitzhak Shamir, Israel's seventh Prime Minister, was better known for what he did not do than for the actions he took. For example he was responsible for Israel's policy of restraint during the Gulf War in 1991. A more controversial  step was his blocking of the London Agreement, the unofficial agreement  signed by his Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, and King Hussein in London in 1987. Shamir claimed that it was made without his knowledge, and certainly without his approval.
When Mr. Shamir passed away last Saturday, the Israel State Archives decided to put out a short publication on the ISA website. Although we knew that Mr. Shamir was seriously ill, we had not made preparations for this event. The files on his activity as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister had not yet been declassified, but it took no more than a day for my colleagues to chose and scan some interesting documents. They were then declassified and the publication was ready.
Several of the documents referred to the London Agreement and a Hebrew copy was found, but the English original was not in the Foreign Ministry files. According to Peres, who published the text in his autobiography, he read the agreement to Shamir on his return but refused to leave it with the Prime Minister for fear of leaks.  I finally located an old photocopy in a file from Shamir's office, and the agreement is now available for the first time in Hebrew and English on our website.
Perhaps future researchers will find the original; we can only speculate what might have happened if Shamir had approved the agreement….

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