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World leaders praise Sharon’s commitment to Israeli security, peace
By HERB KEINON
12/01/2014
Kerry: Sharon's journey was Israel’s journey; Blair: He remained ‘firm and unbowed’ in face of political difficulties.
 
Leaders of the world, who for many years viewed Ariel Sharon as a hard-line right-winger to be shunned, eulogized him warmly on Saturday, praising him for his commitment to the country’s security and for the risks he was willing to take for peace.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying that “Sharon’s journey was Israel’s journey; the dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream.”

Kerry said he remembered reading about Sharon as a young lawyer in Boston and “marveling at his commitment to cause and country. I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became prime minister, as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters, and the limits of his own lifelong convictions, in the process. He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.”

Kerry acknowledged the differences the US had with him over the years, but said that regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with him, “you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish state.”

Kerry said Sharon, in his later years, “surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik’s legacy and those of Israel’s founding generation by working to achieve that goal.”

Ariel Sharon with former US president George W. Bush.

Former US president George W. Bush, in the White House when Sharon served as prime minister and someone who developed a close relationship with Sharon, issued a statement saying he was “a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East.”

Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who served as Britain’s prime minister when Sharon held that office in Israel, called Sharon “a monumental figure in the history of the State of Israel, who dedicated his life to the country he loved. I worked closely with him, and even when we did not always agree, I remember and respect his determination to do what he thought was right for the people of Israel, sometimes at a great personal price.

“He was a fascinating man who stood firm and unbowed in the face of political difficulties,” Blair said. “Although he was a farmer and agriculturalist at heart, his legacy in Israeli politics is enduring and his place in Israel’s history everlasting.”

Blair ended his statement with the Hebrew words “Yehi zichro baruch” (“May his memory be for a blessing”).

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Sharon met a number of times as a prime minister, called Sharon an “outstanding statesman and military commander.”

According to a statement put out by the Kremlin, Putin praised Ariel Sharon’s “personal qualities and his activities to protect Israel’s interests, noting a high respect for him among compatriots and his high authority in the international arena.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to come to Sharon’s funeral.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sharon would be remembered for his “political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. His successor faces the difficult challenge of realizing the aspirations of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.”

Former US president Bill Clinton, whom Sharon met as foreign minister, said in a joint statement with his wife, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, that “Sharon gave his life to Israel – to bring it into being, to sustain and preserve it, and at the end of his long service, to create a new political party committed to both a just peace and lasting security.”

Clinton said “it was an honor to work with him, argue with him and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who became Germany’s leader a month before Sharon’s first stroke in December 2005 and never met with him as prime minister, said that “with his courageous decision to withdraw the Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, he took a historic step on the path to a deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who also never met Sharon as prime minister, called him “one of the most significant figures in Israeli history, and as prime minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace.”
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