Israel mourns former PM Ariel Sharon

Israel mourns former PM Ariel Sharon

    The 11th Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, was laid to rest in a military funeral at the Shikmim Farm in the Negev. He was eulogized by Israeli and world leaders.​​
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    Ariel Sharon, 1928-2014 Ariel Sharon, 1928-2014 Copyright: GPO
    Eulogy by President Shimon Peres: 
    Arik, friend, leader, commander,
    We are saying goodbye to you today, Arik. You were the shoulder on whom Israel's security rested. The story of your life is bound to the story of this country. And your life was dedicated to the life of this country. 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.
    I remember during the early 1950s, the Commander of the Jerusalem Brigade asked to introduce David Ben Gurion to a young officer. He was a history student and that he had original ideas for dealing with the Fedayeen infiltrations into Jerusalem. The description of this young officer sounded to me more like a song than a biography. I was told he was smart and brave, unorthodox and daring. An officer who was both a leader and a decision maker. A soldier who never retreats from the enemy and a leader who doesn't fear vision. This young officer, Arik Sharon was his name, was born for greatness.
    We met 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. His words conquered hearts. His soldiers followed him with total faith. If one of them was injured he wouldn't leave them until they recovered. To bereaved families he was a brother and a comforter. He knew how to tell the stories of their fallen loved ones with unforgettable emotion.
    The nation loved him and he loved Israel, both its people and its land.
    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.
    There were parts of his personality which were not written in his military biography. His emotional intelligence which shone through whenever he described a flower or a tree, a butterfly or a bird. And of course when he spoke of his friends. The greatness of Arik and Lilly's love was known to everyone. His children were dear to him and he to them. Omri and Gilad stood by him day and night with a sense of mission and an unending love, until his final breath.
    We are accompanying to his final resting place today, a soldier, an exceptional soldier, a commander who knew how to win. A leader who breathed a dream, a man who charmed us all even during the most difficult hours.
    Arik, You were unique. You turned the seemingly impossible into endless opportunity. You fought off dangers and never delayed decisions. You decided and you were victorious. May you rest in peace, a great leader. 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.
    In the words of the poet - "As the nation arises, Torn at heart but still breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle." May your memory be blessed, Arik.

    Eulogy by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

    Ariel Sharon was one of the greatest military leaders of the people of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces. Arik belonged to our founding generation, the generation of our national revival. Israel's revival depended first and foremost on a generation of Jewish leaders who reintroduced the legacy of Jewish bravery in the Land of Israel – a legacy that seemed to have vanished during our years in exile. Arik Sharon played a central role in building this legacy of bravery. He fought with the Israel Defense Forces for many years – from the War of Independence to the fateful battles of the Yom Kippur War.
    He laid the foundations for the IDF war doctrine, primarily the concept of retaliation and offensive measures in the fight against terrorism. He did so when he established Unit 101, commanding heroic fighters such as Meir Har-Zion and his comrades. Arik also personified and implemented the "outflanking doctrine" in battle. He did so when he parachuted at the Mitla Pass during the Sinai Operation and in the great outflanking maneuvers of the Six Day War. However, his maneuvering and command abilities were demonstrated primarily during the Yom Kippur War when he led the IDF forces across the Suez Canal and surrounded the Egyptian Third Army. This maneuver, under his command, reversed the direction of the battle and led to the successful conclusion of the war, which began under very difficult circumstances for the State of Israel. On those occasions, Arik demonstrated courage and resourcefulness – which filtered down to his soldiers and served to significantly embolden the fighters.
    As minister and Prime Minister he insisted on our right to defend ourselves in this region so that we can live here safely – a right we continue to defend today and which is a necessary precondition for our existence and for the achievement of peace.
    I did not always agree with Arik and he did not always agree with me. But when we served in each other's governments we worked in cooperation for the benefit of Israel's security and economy. Arik was a practical and pragmatic man. His pragmatism was rooted in his deep emotional ties to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. He understood all too well the essence of anti-Semitism and the need for the Jews to be masters of their own fate in a country of their own. He attributed great importance to our relations with our greatest ally, the United States, but also stood firm in defending Israel's vital interests in times of trial.
    When the international reaction to one of the terror attacks against us seemed too conciliatory to him, he 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". End quote.
    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.
    Arik, the people of Israel bid you farewell today. Your unique contribution to Israel's security is etched on the pages of our nation's history. May your memory be forever cherished in the heart of this nation.

    Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman:
    "Ariel Sharon served the State of Israel from its establishment until the last moment he could, taking part in the central events that shaped its character. Sharon will be remembered first of all as a great military commander who led many important battles, most importantly the crossing of the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War, as well as the battles of Israel's War of Independence and the establishment of the special 101 Unit, the Sinai Campaign, and more. 

    Sharon's political legacy has always been controversial, from his tenure as Chairman of the Ministerial Settlement Committee which strengthened Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, to the disengagement from Gaza which he initiated and implemented. He will go down in the history of Israel as one of the most noteworthy and influential figures."

  • Ariel Sharon - From soldier to statesman

    Ariel Sharon - From soldier to statesman
     Photos: GPO

    PM Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting (12 Jan 2014):

    "We take leave from Ariel Sharon, the 11th Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Arik was, first and foremost, a warrior and a commander, among the Jewish people's greatest generals in the current era and throughout its history. He was dedicated to the security of the state from his youth, as a young fighter in the War of Independence, and afterwards as a commander in the 1956 Sinai operation, in the Six Day War and in the decisive battle – during the Yom Kippur War, in leading the IDF across the Suez Canal, which, for all intents and purposes, led to a successful conclusion of a war that began under very difficult conditions for the State of Israel.

    He established Unit #101 and set two primary foundations for Israel's struggle against terrorism, initiative and retaliation, which stand to this day. He also continued this action as Defense Minister, in distancing terrorism from our northern border.

    In all of his positions – Defense Minister, Housing Minister, Infrastructures Minister and Foreign Minister – Arik contributed to the State of Israel, as he also did as Prime Minister. I think that he represents the generation of Jewish warriors that arose for our people upon the resumption of our independence.

    He was tied to the land; he knew that it had to be defended. He understood that above everything, our revival is our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. I believe that he will be remembered in the heart of the Jewish people's forever as one of our most outstanding leaders and most daring commanders."

  • Ariel Sharon to be laid to rest

    On Sunday, 12 January 2014, Ariel Sharon's coffin was brought to the Knesset for the public to pay its respects.

    President Peres lays a wreath at the coffin of Ariel Sharon
    President Peres lays a wreath at the coffin of Ariel Sharon
    Copyright: GPO/Amos Ben Gershom
  • World leaders on Ariel Sharon: Excerpts


    Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the demise of Ariel Sharon. During his long career in public service, Sharon made extremely important contributions to the State of Israel. In this hour of bereavement, please accept our heartfelt condolences and sympathies. As Prime Minister, he took bold steps for peace in the region. We in India recall that he was the first-ever Prime Minister of Israel to visit India in September 2003. His lasting contribution to the promotion of our bilateral ties will be long remembered."

    US President Barack Obama: "I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel... As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country.​"

    Former President George W. Bush: "I was honored to know this man of courage and call him friend. He was a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East."

    Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton: "Ariel Sharon gave his life to Israel - to bring it into being, to sustain and preserve it, and at the end of his long service, to create a new political party committed to both a just peace and lasting security. It was an honor to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country."

    US Secretary of State John Kerry: "Ariel Sharon's journey was Israel’s journey. The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream... I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became Prime Minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace... He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace... In his final years as Prime Minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik’s legacy and those of Israel’s founding generation by working to achieve that goal."

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Throughout a life dedicated to the State of Israel, Ariel Sharon was a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman. Prime Minister Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.”

    British Prime Minister David Cameron: "Ariel Sharon is one of the most significant figures in Israeli history and as Prime Minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated. Israel has today lost an important leader."

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “A renowned military leader, Mr. Sharon pursued the security of Israel with unyielding determination that was recognized by friends and foes alike. He also played a central role in the Israeli government for several years, changing the political landscape through his leadership and vision."

    French President François Hollande: "Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was a major actor in the history of his country. After a long military and political career, he chose to turn to dialogue with the Palestinians."

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Sharon as a "Israeli patriot who has rendered great service to his country. With his courageous decision to withdraw the Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, he took a historic step on the path to a settlement with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message of condolence on the passing of the former Prime Minister of Israel, an outstanding statesman and military commander Ariel Sharon, praising Ariel Sharon’s personal qualities, his activity to uphold the interests of Israel, noting the respect he enjoyed among his compatriots and internationally.