Joseph Biden speaking at at Sharon memorial.
(photo credit: Reuters)
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.’
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.
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.”