Biden Eulogizes Sharon by Lauding Gaza Expulsions
Vice President Joe Biden eulogized former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset in Jerusalem today by lauding his decision to force Israeli settlers out of Gaza and swearing that "no one in any corner of this world has any doubt" about America's commitment to the Jewish state.
The delegation to Sharon's funeral included Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). A eulogy was also delivered by former British Prime Minster Tony Blair.
"The first time I was invited to his office, he said to me -- and I remember thinking, is he serious? -- he said, Senator, you are mostly welcome. I didn’t know if it was a matter of something being lost in translation or whether he was pulling my leg, as we say in the States, until I spent a few moments with him and realized how incredible his hospitality was. But when the topic of Israel’s security arose, which it always, always, always did in my many meetings over the years with him, you immediately understood how he acquired, as the speakers referenced, the nickname 'Bulldozer.' He was indomitable," Biden said in his remarks.
"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," Biden continued. "...The political courage it took, whether you agreed with him or not, when he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza in order, from his perspective, to strengthen Israel. I can’t think of much more controversial; as a student of the Jewish state, I can’t think of a much more difficult and controversial decision that’s been made. But he believed it and he did it."
The vice president said the security of the Israelis "was always Arik’s unwavering mission, an unbreakable commitment to the future of Jews, whether 30 years or 300 years from now."
"We have an expression in the States: never in doubt. Arik was never uncertain from my observation. I don’t know him nearly as well as the Israeli people and his colleagues, but he seemed never in doubt. But there were times when he acted, and those actions earned him controversy and even condemnation. And in certain instances, American leaders -- American presidents -- had profound differences with him, and they were never shy about stating them nor was he ever shy about stating his position. As I said, from my observation he was a complex man, but to understand him better I think it’s important history will judge he also lived in complex times, in a very complex neighborhood," he said.
Biden steered toward the U.S.-Israel relationship, arguing "the United States, whether we agreed or disagreed with a specific policy, has been unflagging in its commitment to the State of Israel."
"We have never stepped away. We have never diminished our support. We have never failed to make Israel’s case around the world. We have never failed to defend Israel’s legitimacy. And no one in any corner of this world has any doubt about where America stands with regard to Israeli security, the independent State of Israel that is the ultimate refuge for Jews wherever they are in the world. And that will never change," he continued, adding a quote from President Obama's visit to the region.
"I find it fascinating -- maybe it’s I’m getting older -- I find it fascinating how some look at Israel today and say its success was inevitable. Why didn't everyone understand this was just inevitable? But at the outset it was anything but inevitable. It was the opposite of inevitable. Israel’s very survival was against all odds."
At the end of his lengthy remarks, Biden said, "May the bond between Israel and the United States never, ever be broken."