Former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s life was dedicated to the life of the State of Israel, President Shimon Peres said in his eulogy for Sharon Monday at the Knesset.

Peres eulogized his friend, who was his ideological rival before becoming an ally at the end of Sharon’s political career. He focused on Sharon’s role in history.

“Arik, you were the shoulder on whom Israel’s security rested,” Peres said. “Your footprints are imprinted on every hill and in every valley. You cultivated the land with your scythe and defended it with your sword. Your fingerprints are on every diplomatic situation and every military outpost. You took and implemented the difficult decisions.”

Peres recalled how during the early 1950s, the commander of the Jerusalem Brigade asked him to introduce then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion to Sharon, who was then a young officer who had original ideas for dealing with Fedayeen infiltrations into Jerusalem. He said he was told Sharon was smart and brave, unorthodox and daring, a leader and a decision- maker.

“Sharon was born for greatness,” Peres said. “We met with Arik and a friendship was instantly formed. I felt that before me stood an extraordinary young man with both the desire and rare quality to serve his people until the end. Ben-Gurion loved him from first sight.”

Peres, like other speakers at the memorial ceremony, stressed that Sharon was being buried in the land that he adored.

“The nation loved him and he loved Israel, both its people and its land,” Peres said. “Arik was a man of the land. He loved the smell; he cultivated the hills, he sowed and he reaped. He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety. When our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the promised land.”

Peres concluded the speech by praising Sharon’s boldness on the military battlefield, calling him “a commander who knew how to win,” and who turned what appeared to be impossible situations into opportunities.

“May you rest in peace, a great leader,” he said. “You never rested when in service of your people, when defending your land and when making it flourish. The land from which you came will embrace you in the warm arms of the history of our nation to which you added an unforgettable chapter.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised Sharon for his heroism and his ability to stand up for Israel’s interests against the international community.

“As a minister and prime minister he insisted on Israel’s right to defend itself, a right we also stand for today as an integral condition for our existence and for peacemaking,” Netanyahu said. “I did not always agree with Arik and he didn’t always agree with me, but when we served in each other’s governments, we supported each other for the good of the State of Israel.”

Quoting Sharon, Netanyahu recalled that “when the international reaction to one of the terror attacks against us seemed too conciliatory to him, he [Sharon] appealed to the international community and said the following: ‘Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when enlightened democracies in Europe decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient temporary solution. Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. We will not tolerate it.’

“Arik understood that when it came to our existence and our security, we must stand firm. These are principles that we continue to safeguard. The State of Israel will continue to fight terrorism; the State of Israel will continue to strive for peace while preserving its security; and the State of Israel will make every effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“Ariel Sharon will go down in history as one of Israel’s greatest military leaders and one of the greatest fighters for the people of Israel in their land.”

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