Knesset members from across the political spectrum praised the late American Senator John McCain, who died Saturday, as a close friend of the Jewish state.
“The State of Israel salutes John McCain,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday in response to the death of the long-time US senator. Netanyahu called McCain a “great American patriot and a true friend of Israel.”
McCain, a Republican from Arizona, was a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008. He died at 81 on Saturday night, after a losing battle with aggressive cancer.
“Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018,” his office said in a statement. “With the senator when he passed were his wife, Cindy, and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 60 years.”
On the last day of his state visit to Lithuania, Netanyahu issued a statement saying that he will always “appreciate in my heart his strong friendship toward Israel and toward me personally. His consistent support for Israel flowed from his faith in the principles of democracy and freedom.” He said Israel has never had a bigger defender than McCain.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said she “did not know yet” whether Israel would be sending a delegation to McCain’s funeral. No information was available from the Prime Ministers Office.
“John McCain was an American hero and a unique person,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said. “We will always remember him as a great friend of Israel. May he rest in peace.”
President Reuven Rivlin sent a message of condolence to Cindy McCain and the McCain family in which he referred to John McCain as “a good man, a great American leader and a good friend of Israel.” Rivlin added that the people of Israel join him in expressing sympathy.
“While the United States has lost a great leader, we in Israel have lost a good friend who believed in the importance of the strong ties between our two nations and whose statements and actions made a most valuable contribution to reinforcing and nurturing those ties,” wrote Rivlin.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) wrote on Twitter in English that “John McCain was a true patriot and a true friend of Israel.” She added in a statement in Hebrew that “McCain was an American hero who refused release from captivity in Vietnam until his fellow soldiers were released as well,” and that “in his 36 years in the House and Senate, Israeli governments always knew that they had a friend.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) recalled that in one of their last meetings in Washington, McCain showed him a photograph from his time in captivity.
"He told me that throughout his horrible suffering, he never had doubts about his values
of freedom and justice," Liberman said.
Intelligence Services Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said McCain’s passing caused him great sorrow and that he “was a true American hero, in war as in peace.”
Former Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) said McCain’s death was “a great loss to America and its allies.”
“John McCain was not only an American hero, but a hero to many all over the world,” opposition leader Tzipi Livni wrote on Twitter. “Standing up for his values, he showed us the way a true leader should act. Honorable and courageous. Israel is grateful for his support. We will all miss the great man that he was.”
MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) called McCain “an American hero, a model of integrity and a true friend of Israel.” He praised McCain’s sense of humor, wisdom and values.
“This is what a private figure should be,” Shelah said.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter (Likud), who met regularly with McCain, as he was considered his counterpart in the Senate, called him “a smart, sharp thinker, who was determined on matters of security and was always fascinating.”
Dichter said McCain was a big supporter of legislation that cut the amount of aid to the Palestinian Authority that is then given to terrorists and their families. That legislation was passed into US law before a similar bill passed in Israel with McCain’s strong encouragement.
“McCain served his country in and out of uniform for over 60 years, with unending loyalty and dedication, and was a national symbol,” former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon wrote on Twitter. “McCain was a true friend of Israel and had a deep understanding of our national security issues. This reflected in his huge contribution to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge through years of assistance and hard work.”
Herb Keinon and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.
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