Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who over the years had sharp political disagreements with Ariel Sharon, especially over disengagement from the Gaza Strip, said Sunday he will forever be remembered as one of the country’s most prominent leaders and daring commanders.

“I think that he represents the generation of Jewish warriors who arose with the resumption of our independence,” Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“He was connected to the land, he knew it was necessary to defend the land, and he knew above all that our independence is our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves.”

At the cabinet meeting, which began with a moment of silence in Sharon’s honor, Netanyahu emphasized Sharon’s military, rather than diplomatic, legacy. “Arik was first and foremost a warrior and a commander, among the Jewish people’s greatest military leaders in modern times and throughout its history.”

Netanyahu praised Sharon for being recruited to Israel’s defense in his youth, and for the role he played in the War of Independence, the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the Six Day War, and especially the 1973 Yom Kippur War when he led the IDF across the Suez Canal , “something that led, for all intents and purposes, to a successful conclusion of a war that began under very difficult conditions for Israel.”

Netanyahu also praised him for establishing the fabled commando Unit 101 and thereby establishing Israel’s policy toward fighting terrorism, a policy that has lasted until this day: retribution and initiating action.

In a reference to the First Lebanon War, Netanyahu said Sharon continued this policy “in distancing terrorism from our northern border.”

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