Hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of veteran Israeli politician and former defense minister Binyamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer at a cemetery in Holon in central Israel on Tuesday.
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Ben-Eliezer, who died on Sunday, had asked to be buried at that cemetery, next to his parents. The service was attended by four of Ben-Eliezer's sons and his nephew. His fifth son, who lives abroad, did not attend the funeral for fear that he was would arrested in connection with the corruption scandal that was ongoing at the time of his father's death.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lamented at Ben-Eliezer's passing, saying that he "understood the importance of Israeli independence," and said that he carries with him many memories of the career politician and military leader. "He served as a minister in my government; he approached me one day and said 'I know that you're meeting with Mubarak, take me with you.'"
According to Netanyahu, "It was hard not to love him."
After Netanyahu, former president Shimon Peres spoke to the crowd, saying that Ben-Eliezer had been a "fearless fighter against terror who knew how to reach out to bring people together, to find common ground with our neighbors, to douse the flames between enemies and to build bridges."
According to Peres, as coordinator for the territories, Fuad proved that "we do not strive for war, but for peace." Peres also said that Ben-Eliezer had provided relief to residents of the Palestinian territories and created an atmosphere of coexistence.
"You steered the labor party and you created a large camp of friends who followed you and were captivated by your smile, your big heart and your winning, humble directness," said Peres. "You also created warm connections with friends in the international arena. Leaders from Jordan and Egypt listened to your good proposals."
Current opposition leader Isaac Herzog said that he took leave of Ben-Eliezer as a friend and "someone who's sitting in the chair that you sat in and you broke the glass ceiling - for the first time a party leader who emigrated from a Muslim country."
Herzog also said that Ben-Eliezer had remained loyal to the party through his last days. "I reminded you of the prophetic words you told the cabinet of the even of Camp David and warned against what was to come. You knew then that the conditions [for peace] were not ripe," he added.
Ben-Eliezer's son Yariv also spoke at the cemetery, telling of one of the times his father had been hospitalized in Tel Aviv when a stranger approached and said that Ben-Eliezer had saved his life. "Fuad, together with the commandos, killed terrorists in an ambush who were slaughtering us," said the stranger.
According to his son, Ben-Eliezer suffered in the last two-and-a-half years "from mental anguish from the scandal that contributed to the deterioration of your condition."
Ben-Eliezer's wife, Dolly, eulogized him and called him a "giant whale who swam in large waters and was surrounded by hundreds of big and small fish who were drawn like a magnet to the source of strength and power, the Fuad power station."