Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu eulogized former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, defending some of Shamir's more controversial statements.
Shamir's statement that "The Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea," alluding to Israel's neighbors, invoked strong criticism, even contempt at the time, Netanyahu told the cabinet. Today, however, "there are certainly many more people who understand that this man saw and understood fundamental truths."
The late prime minister, Netanyahu continued, never compromised himself or the truth according to popular sentiment, and "therefore, I think that it is proper that we honor him in meetings, at tomorrow's ceremony, and at special meetings to be held today."
Shamir died at the age of 96 on Saturday, at the nursing home in which he lived in Tel Aviv, after a long illness.
He will be buried in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Cemetery in a state funeral on Monday after his son Yair returns from abroad. The procession will begin at the Knesset, where the public will be invited to pay its respects.
Shamir also served as foreign minister, Knesset speaker and opposition head, and was an agent in the Mossad. He was among the leaders of the Stern Group (Lehi) in the Jewish underground in Mandatory Palestine.
On Friday, Netanyahu said Shamir “belonged to the generation of giants that established the State of Israel and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people in its land.”
He said Shamir, whose family died in the Holocaust, fought in the Stern Group and as prime minister to build up the security of the state and ensure its future out of concern for its citizens.