Obama: U.S. Joins Israeli People in Honoring Sharon's Commitment to His Country

Sharon's funeral scheduled for Monday at 2 P.M; his coffin will lay in state in the Knesset Plaza so the public can pay its last respects.

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U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement expressing the American people's deepest condolences to the Sharon family, following the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Saturday.

"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and 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. We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country."

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies, chaired by Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat, met on Saturday to coordinate the funeral arrangements for the deceased former prime minister Ariel Sharon. On Sunday, Sharon's coffin will lay in state in the Knesset Plaza so that the public can pay their last respects. A source involved with the funeral arrangements said Sharon's funeral would most likely take place on Monday at 2 P.M. at Anemone Hill, overlooking his Sycamore Ranch, where his wife Lily is buried.

On Monday morning, before the funeral, an official laying to rest ceremony will be held at the Knesset. Leaders from around the world are expected to attend Sharon's funeral, including United States Vice President Joe Biden. Former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose term in office coincided with Sharon's premiership, is not expected to attend the funeral because he is taking care of his elderly mother and former First Lady Barbara Bush. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected to attend the funeral.

In a statement on Sharon, Secretary of State John Kerry said that "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 remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marveling at his commitment to cause and country. 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, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process. 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.

During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions – and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood – you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State. 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."

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also expressed her condolences. "Ariel Sharon was a loyal and a fierce defender of peace and prosperity for the Jewish democratic state of Israel. I admired and respected him for his passion and courage. He was a good friend of the United States and a partner in seeking a more peaceful Middle East. I wish to express my condolences to the Sharon family and to the people of Israel. He will be missed but never forgotten."

House Majority leader Eric Cantor wrote on Twitter: "Sharon was a giant as a leader of Israel, a skilled warrior in battle and a valued friend of our nation."

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."

"Ariel Sharon has been a major actor in the history of his country. After a long military and political career, he made the choice to turn towards dialogue with Palestinians," French President Francois Hollande said in a statement.

"The Palestinian people remember what Sharon did and tried to do to our people and their dream of forming a state," Wael Abu Youself, a senior member of Abbas' umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters. "Despite the settlements and wars that he launched against us, here and in Lebanon and with the war crime of Sabra and Shatila (camps), Sharon has departed and the Palestinian people remain on their land."

The Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees Chair Michael Siegal and JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman issued a joint statement lamenting Sharon’s passing. “Today, Jewish Federations mourn the loss of a great Israeli leader. Ariel Sharon was a highly regarded military leader, but he was also a peacemaker. One of the country’s most daring and celebrated generals, he was also a man who was able to take bold steps in the hopes of achieving peace.

“Sharon worked his entire life for the unity of the Jewish People. He was closely connected with Jewish communities around the world, and acutely aware of their needs and aspirations. In all his leadership roles, and especially as prime minister of the Jewish state, Sharon engaged with Jewish communities across the Diaspora. He was a regular speaker at Jewish Federation events and is warmly remembered for welcoming countless Federation groups to his private home in the Negev.
“Today it is not only the State of Israel that has lost one of its most celebrated figures, but the Jewish people as a whole."

Ariel SharonCredit: Haaretz

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