Vice President Joe Biden eulogized former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday, calling him an “indomitable bulldozer” who never wavered in his commitment to the survival of the state of Israel.
Among a dozen international dignitaries on hand for Sharon's memorial service, Biden spoke for 17 minutes, calling Sharon a “complex man” whose life embodied the journey of Israel itself. During his remarks, Biden also reaffirmed the United States' “unflagging commitment” to Israel.
In his first meetings with Sharon nearly 30 years ago, Biden said “you immediately understood how he acquired … the nickname 'bulldozer.' He was indomitable.”
“Like all historic leaders, Prime Minister Sharon was a complex man, about whom as you’ve already heard … engendered strong opinions from everyone,” Biden said. “But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him. A north star from which he never in my observation, never deviated. His north star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they resided."
The memorial service took place at the Knesset, which houses Israel's legislature. Other world leaders who attended included former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok.
Along with Biden, the U.S. delegation included: Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.; Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro; and former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer.
Israeli President Shimon Peres was the first to pay tribute to Sharon, calling him a “military legend” who had “borne the weight of the security of our people.”
“He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe,” Peres said. “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.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sharon the greatest commander the country has ever had, adding that his “unique contribution to the security of the state is engraved in our historical writings.”
"Your memory will be part of this nation forever," he added.