Obama says Sharon dedicated his life to Israel
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press January 11, 2014 11:30AM
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 14, 2004 file photo, President Bush, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, walk together at the end of a joint press conference in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington. The son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says his father has died on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The 85-year-old Sharon had been in a coma since a debilitating stroke eight years ago. His son Gilad Sharon said: "He has gone. He went when he decided to go." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
Updated: January 11, 2014 11:31AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Saturday remembered former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “commitment to his country,” and Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation for the memorial service.
The Israeli soldier-turned-politician-turned statesman died on Saturday, eight years after a stroke put him in a coma. He was 85.
“We join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country,” Obama said in a written statement. Obama also used the occasion to reaffirm “our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”
“We continue to strive for a lasting peace and security for the people of Israel,” Obama said.
Biden said he looked forward to the opportunity “to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel.”
Tributes poured in from Secretary of State John Kerry, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and other Washington leaders.
Kerry said he would never forget meeting “this big bear of a man” after Sharon became prime minister.
“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,” said Kerry.
Since becoming America’s top diplomat last year, Kerry has made 10 trips to the Middle East in hopes of brokering a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“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,” added Clinton.
Bush, who held office simultaneously with Sharon, called him a friend and “man of courage.”
“He was a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East,” Bush said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Israel “has lost one of its greatest sons and America a friend.”