Two-time former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir died Saturday in Tel Aviv at the age of 96, the country's prime minister's office announced.
Shamir served as Israel's seventh prime minister from 1983 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1992, the longest serving in Israel's history after David Ben-Gurion. He was known for resisting international pressure to make concessions, yet initiated a peace process in Madrid, Spain that led to many future diplomatic overtures by his successors.
"The truth is that, in the final analysis, the search for peace has always been a matter of who would tire of the struggle first, and blink," he wrote in his autobiography.
Shamir also served as foreign minister, Knesset speaker, opposition head and was among the founders of the Mossad. He was among the leaders of the Jewish underground group Lehi in mandatory Palestine.
Shamir was involved in key foreign policy initiatives.
He presided over negotiations with Egypt on the post-treaty normalization process, and started diplomatic relations with several African countries that had severed relations with Israel after the Yom Kippur War, according to a biography of Shamir on the prime minister's website.
Shamir ordered Operation Solomon, the airlift rescue of thousands of Ethiopian Jews following a regime change in 1991. During the operation, which took less than 48 hours, 14,000 Jews boarded Israeli planes to emigrate to Israel, according to the Israeli government.
Politicians across the Israeli political spectrum mourned the former leader's death Saturday.
"Yitzhak Shamir was a brave warrior before and after the founding of the State of Israel," said Israeli President Shimon Peres. "He was loyal to his views, a great patriot and a true lover of Israel who served his country with integrity and unending commitment. May his memory be blessed."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also paid tribute to Shamir, saying he "led Israel with a deep loyalty to the nation and to the land and to the eternal values of the Jewish people."