Video: Eli Mandelbaum
US Vice President Joseph Biden said on Monday that Ariel Sharon had a “North
Star” to guide him, from which he never deviated: the survival of the State of
Israel and the Jewish people wherever they resided.
possessed such incredible physical and political courage, he never deviated from
that interest,” Biden said at a memorial service for Sharon at the Knesset.
“Even someone thousands of miles away from here could see, taste, feel it. There
was no doubt about it.”
Biden praised Sharon for deciding to evacuate
Gaza even though it was a politically controversial move. Biden contrasted
Sharon’s positions before and during his premiership, using a line from a
Yehudit Ravitz song that Sharon famously quoted: “Things that you see from
there, you can’t see here.”
“When a country that has been tested as much
as Israel loses someone like Sharon, its like a death in the family,” said
Biden, who knew Sharon for 30 years.
The vice president, who attended the
memorial with Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FLA) and former ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer,
recounted meeting Sharon, and in a possible reference to his girth said “he was
not only a powerful man, but a powerfully built man... He had a powerful
presence. He filled a room.”
“When the topic of Israel’s security arose,
which it always did in meetings with him, you understood how he got nicknamed
‘bulldozer,’” Biden added.
The vice president also discussed the
friendship between the US and Israel, which he said Sharon worked to
“The arc of Sharon’s life traced the journey of the State of
Israel. Through it all, the US has been unflagging in its commitment to Israel,”
“We have never failed to defend Israel’s legitimacy and no
one has any doubt as to where America stands. This is the ultimate refuge for
Jews wherever they are around the world, and that will never
“May the bond between Israel and the US never be broken,” Biden
Quartet representative and former British prime minister Tony
Blair’s speech at the ceremony focused on the changes in Sharon’s policies,
calling the disengagement from Gaza, Sharon’s agreement to the Quartet’s Road
Map for Peace and the formation of Kadima “actions no one thought he would
“The idea that Sharon went from man of war to man of peace misses
what defined him. Actually, Sharon never changed,” Blair posited. “The state he
fought for from age 14 had to be protected. When that meant fighting, he fought.
When that meant peace, he sought peace.”
According to Blair, “Sharon
didn’t move, he charged. He could leave considerable debris in his wake, but his
destination was clear.”
The Quartet representative to the Middle East
praised Sharon for “having the imagination to know peace is the anchor for
Blair emphasized the contrasts in Sharon’s persona:
“He was tough, but shy. Indomitable, yet a servant to his people. He was a
warrior to help create his country, but wise enough to know war isn’t
Other foreign dignitaries attending the memorial service at the
Knesset included the Czech prime minister and defense minister, the foreign
ministers of Australia and Germany, the Greek and Cypriot defense ministers, the
speaker of the Russian Duma and ministers and deputy ministers from Italy,
Bulgaria, UK, Holland, Singapore, the Philippines, France, Canada and Romania.