Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the funeral of former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
The Holon Cemetery was filled to capacity on Tuesday, with hundreds of mourners waiting outside to pay their respects to Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer, the former defense minister, Labor Party leader, longtime MK, and brigadier general who died on Sunday at age 80.
Present at the ceremony were a host of prominent politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and former president Shimon Peres.
Netanyahu said Ben-Eliezer was “a combination of vitality, grace, craftiness, and a lot of patriotism,” repeatedly stating throughout his speech “I loved Fuad,” and then: “Speaking in all our names, we loved Fuad.”
Fuad’s wife, Dolly, told The Jerusalem Post that she remembers Ben- Eliezer “as a man full of life.” In her eulogy, Dolly called her husband “a big tent from which all corners were invited to draw energy, without agenda.”
Ben-Eliezer’s son, Yariv, held back tears while describing the impact his father had on his life and on others.
“So many people would tell me ‘there is the biological father, and the father named Fuad. Fuad is not only your father,” Yariv said.
Netanyahu described him as “a Jewish boy who emigrated from Iraq, remembered the sight of Jews hanging from utility poles, contributed to years of service in the IDF, and then to years of service to Israel’s security cabinet. So I loved Fuad.”
Peres called Ben-Eliezer “an adored commander of the Shaked Patrol Unit, and a commander of Judea and Samaria. A fearless warrior against terror.”
Peres summed up Fuad’s widespread popularity and appeal, saying, “Here we say goodbye to you, representatives of all friends: right, left, religious and secular, members of all denominations and political parties, representatives of different religions. We have come to say thank you for your contribution to the security of the country, the seeds of hope that you spread, and your humanity,” Current opposition leader Isaac Herzog praised Ben-Eliezer for his service to the nation and the Labor Party. “We part from you dear Fuad in the dignity you deserve, in the presence of a great recognition of the many years you served the nation, the state, and the Labor Party.”
Ben-Eliezer was marred with allegations of corruption in his later years, which forced him to withdraw from the 2014 presidential race.
Herzog touched on the corruption allegations stating, “You, Fuad, suffered quite a lot in recent times, and even after your death there are expressions of inhumanity, whereas everyone will attest the opposite – that pure humanity was the front and center part of your personality.”
Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi told the Post that Ben-Eliezer, “will be remembered for what he did and contributed before the trial.”
One of Ben-Eliezer’s five children, Ofir, was not present at the funeral for fear of being arrested in connection with his father’s corruption investigation. Ben-Eliezer, who lives in the United States, has a warrant for his arrest as he failed to appear for questioning. Speaking to Channel 2 on Tuesday, Ofir accused the police investigation of leading to his father’s death. “I am absolutely convinced that [the police] buried my father,” he stated. “They made him sick.”
The police issued a response saying, “We send our condolences to the family; this is no place to judge a man in the midst of their sorrow.”