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Charles Krauthammer, the conservative commentator and fierce defender of Israel who passed away on Thursday at the age of 68, was “one of Israel’s greatest friends of all time,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday in a statement.
Netanyahu, who expressed “deep sorrow” over Krauthammer’s death, said he was also “among the US’s greatest commentators.”
In a letter to Krauthammer written earlier this month after the columnist anounced he only had a short time left to live, Netanyahu wrote that the news of his illness “broke my heart,” and that he was “overcome with grief.”
“For over half my lifetime, since I first met you in Washington in 1982, we have been like brothers. We didn’t need to meet to understand each other. You understood everything.”
Netanyahu said that on those occasions when they did meet, “It was with a knowing smile, a grateful rush of recognition – Joseph and his brothers.”
Netanyahu wrote to Krauthammer that he “lived a life of purpose.”
“As a proud American and a proud son of the Jewish people, you harnessed your formidable intellect to defend liberty and the Jewish state,” he wrote. “No one has done this with greater clarity, consistency and conviction.”
The prime minister said Krauthammer had “slain the hypocrisy and slanders of the vilifiers of Israel and America with unflappable precision and unmatched erudition.
“I will miss you, Charles, as I miss a brother. I shall always remember you as a fearless fighter of truth, the best of the best our people has produced.”
Krauthammer, a New York native who was raised in Montreal, was a first-year medical student at Harvard when a diving accident put him in a wheelchair for life. He became a psychiatrist and first emerged in the political sphere as a speechwriter for vice president Walter Mondale during the Carter administration. Like many hawkish Jewish Democrats, he was soon attracted to the hard-line Cold War postures of president Ronald Reagan.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his Washington Post
columns in 1987, and the National Magazine Award for his work at The New Republic
He opposed the Oslo Accords, primarily distrusting the renunciation of terrorism by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat – a view that seemed vindicated when Arafat embraced the Second Intifada. Krauthammer also was an outspoken advocate of the Iraq War, scrambling to defend his advocacy when the war went south.
Krauthammer also was among a small but unyielding core of conservatives who opposed Donald Trump, even as he closed in on the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and then the presidency. Krauthammer, who Trump called an “overrated clown,” denounced Trump’s unfiltered rhetoric. He said Trump’s failure to unequivocally condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, culminated in a deadly attack on a counterprotester was a “moral disgrace.” (JTA contributed to this report.)