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Posts tagged ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’

Israeli Defense Minister: Israel Can’t Rely on Obama on Iran.


Israel cannot depend on the United States to lead any action against Iran’s nuclear program and can only rely on itself, the country’s defense minister said in remarks published Tuesday.

The comments by Moshe Yaalon came as world powers and Iran were about to start a new round of talks over Iran’s contested nuclear program.

The West fears the program could be used to make a nuclear weapon and seeks to scale it back. Tehran denies the program has a military dimension and insists it is for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation. If a deal with world powers is reached, sanctions imposed on Iran over the nuclear program could be lifted.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

Israel has criticized the ongoing talks with Tehran, saying an interim nuclear deal, struck last November, has left Iran’s military nuclear capabilities largely intact while giving it relief from some economic sanctions.

At the same time, Israel’s strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, has taken a back stage to the talks despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence it remains on the table.

Yaalon’s remarks seemed to underscore that insistence.

“We thought that the one who needs to lead the campaign against Iran is the U.S.,” Yaalon was quoted by the daily Haaretz as saying during a lecture at Tel Aviv University on Monday.

Instead, Yaalon said, the U.S. began negotiations with Iran and Iran gained the upper hand in the talks.

“If we wished others would do the work for us, it wouldn’t be done soon, and therefore in this matter, we have to behave as if we can only rely on ourselves,” Yaalon said.

Yaalon’s office confirmed his remarks but refused to comment whether he was advocating an Israeli strike on Iran. Netanyahu’s office also declined to comment.

Yaalon criticized the West, saying its leaders prefer to avoid confrontation with Iran. As for the U.S., the defense minister alleged American influence is waning in other parts of the world, such as Ukraine over the crisis there.

“Weakness certainly does not pay in the world,” he said. “No one can replace the U.S. as the world’s policeman. I hope the U.S. will come to its senses.”

Yaalon has made controversial comments about Washington in the past. In January, he was quoted as saying that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was “obsessive” and “messianic” over his Mideast peace efforts. The comments triggered an angry response from the U.S., Israel’s most important ally.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Cruz: Obama ‘Most Hostile’ US President to Israel.


Image: Cruz: Obama 'Most Hostile' US President to Israel

 

By Elliot Jager

Barack Obama “has been the president most hostile to the nation of Israel in modern times,” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

Obama’s Iranian policies in particular “may well be setting the stage for the slaughter of millions of Israelis – or millions of Americans,” Cruz said.

The senator was interviewed by the newspaper – which is antagonistic toward the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – during the annual pro-Israel AIPAC conference in Washington earlier this week.

Cruz warned that Obama was undermining the “special relationship” between Washington and Jerusalem.

“For the president of the United States to threaten Israel with international isolation and to not-too-subtly threaten a withdrawal of American support for Israel is profoundly misguided and dangerous [for] both the nation of Israel and to the United States,” he said.

This unsympathetic attitude was not limited to the Obama White House. He said that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had deserted Israel by blocking Kirk-Menendez  – a bill supporters say would provide a greater incentive for Iranian nuclear negotiators to bargain in good faith or face U.S. sanctions harsher than those already imposed.

Beyond his stance on Israel, Cruz criticized Obama’s overall handling of American foreign policy.

“For five years under President Obama, America’s leadership in the world has consistently receded,” Cruz said.” As a direct consequence we’ve seen the spheres of influence of Russia and Iran and China expanding. For five years President Obama has alienated and abandoned our friends and allies and has pursued appeasement in negotiations with our enemies.”

Cruz said Obama had been “hectoring” and “blackmailing” Jerusalem “to accept terms that in Israel’s judgment are inconsistent with protecting its national security.” He said Obama was “embracing a false moral equivalence between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Cruz said that there would be no peace so long as the “Palestinians continue to embrace terrorism and refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Netanyahu Rouses Supporters as Obama Presses for Compromise.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will rally thousands of his country’s most passionate U.S. advocates today after President Barack Obama coaxed him at the White House to compromise with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu addresses the annual Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as a deadline looms on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s nine-month Middle East peace campaign. Kerry is pressing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu to accept by April 29 a structure that would guide further negotiations.

At yesterday’s meeting in the Oval Office, Netanyahu, 64, told Obama he will “stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state.”

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Obama, 52, who visited Netanyahu and Abbas on a Middle East tour a year ago, is inserting himself more directly into the peace talks as Kerry hits resistance from both sides. Abbas has been invited for his own White House meeting March 17. A week later, Obama is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, which has leverage over the Palestinians.

“It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said. “But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides.”

Netanyahu’s Response

Netanyahu responded that “Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not.”

Kerry, who attended the White House meeting, later spoke at the AIPAC conference, where he pledged U.S. military expertise and technology to protect Israel against any threats.

“We can deliver to Israel the security that Israel needs to make peace,” Kerry said.

If Kerry’s peace effort fails, it won’t be “the end of the world,” Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said yesterday in a speech at Tel Aviv University, broadcast on Israel Radio. Shaath said that talks could continue with Kerry’s framework agreement if Israel agrees to free more Palestinian prisoners and freeze building in settlements.

‘Seize the Moment’

Obama said in a Feb. 27 interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg that time is running out to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He urged Netanyahu to “seize the moment.”

If Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach,” Obama said. “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

For Israel, the more pressing concern is Iran’s nuclear program, which was the other topic dominating their discussion. The U.S. and five other world powers have a six-month agreement with Iran, to end in July, during which the Islamic Republic is supposed to freeze some of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some sanctions.

“Iran calls openly for Israel’s destruction, so I’m sure you’ll appreciate that Israel cannot permit such a state to have the ability to make atomic bombs to achieve that goal,” Netanyahu said to reporters at the White House during his appearance with Obama.

Israel has expressed skepticism about the negotiations, and warned against the U.S. getting played by the Iranians. Netanyahu may have limited ability to enlist the U.S. Congress in keeping pressure on Iran.

A senior Palestinian official said differences with Israel have widened in the latest round of peace talks.

Israeli Skepticism

“It isn’t narrowing,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, who negotiated on behalf of Abbas until November, said Feb. 27 at his office in Ramallah.

Obama’s decision to engage in the peace process a year after he delegated the work to Kerry suggests both that Kerry got further than the White House initially predicted in restarting peace talks and that the top U.S. diplomat has run into enough obstacles that his April deadline may be in trouble.

“This framework is more than a speed bump, it is a critical piece,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “Why not strategically deploy the president?”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has blocked efforts by some lawmakers to bring new sanctions legislation up for consideration, and Obama has said he would veto any such measure should it get through Congress.

Ahead of the policy conference at AIPAC, the biggest pro- Israel lobbying group, Senate Republicans on Feb. 26 announced a new effort to try to force votes on new sanctions legislation by attaching language to popular legislation for veterans’ benefits. While AIPAC earlier called for new sanctions, it has backed away from that position.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Obama Threatens Netanyahu, Demands Israel Make Peace Or Face Isolation.


When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster — if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.

obama-threatens-netanyahu-demands-israel-make-peace-with-palestinians-or-face-isolation

In an hourlong interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.” He added, “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week — the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I’ve ever heard himHis language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama said. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”

During the interview, which took place a day before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine, Obama argued that American adversaries, such as Iran, Syria and Russia itself, still believe that he is capable of using force to advance American interests, despite his reluctance to strike Syria last year after President Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s chemical-weapons red line.

“We’ve now seen 15 to 20 percent of those chemical weapons on their way out of Syria with a very concrete schedule to get rid of the rest,” Obama told me. “That would not have happened had the Iranians said, ‘Obama’s bluffing, he’s not actually really willing to take a strike.’ If the Russians had said, ‘Ehh, don’t worry about it, all those submarines that are floating around your coastline, that’s all just for show.’ Of course they took it seriously! That’s why they engaged in the policy they did.”

I returned to this particularly sensitive subject. “Just to be clear,” I asked, “You don’t believe the Iranian leadership now thinks that your ‘all options are on the table’ threat as it relates to their nuclear program — you don’t think that they have stopped taking that seriously?”

Obama answered: “I know they take it seriously.”

How do you know? I asked. “We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” he replied. “And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”

I asked the president if, in retrospect, he should have provided more help to Syria’s rebels earlier in their struggle. “I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there,” Obama said. “When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict — the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

He portrayed his reluctance to involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war as a direct consequence of what he sees as America’s overly militarized engagement in the Muslim world: “There was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”

Obama was adamant that he was correct to fight a congressional effort to impose more time-delayed sanctions on Iran just as nuclear negotiations were commencing: “There’s never been a negotiation in which at some point there isn’t some pause, some mechanism to indicate possible good faith,” he said. “Even in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room and everybody knows what’s going to happen and everybody gets ready. But you don’t start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations.” He said he remains committed to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and seemed unworried by reports that Iran’s economy is improving.

On the subject of Middle East peace, Obama told me that the U.S.’s friendship with Israel is undying, but he also issued what I took to be a veiled threat: The U.S., though willing to defend an isolated Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies, might soon be unable to do so effectively.

“If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”

We also spent a good deal of time talking about the unease the U.S.’s Sunni Arab allies feel about his approach to Iran, their traditional adversary. I asked the president, “What is more dangerous: Sunni extremism or Shia extremism?”

I found his answer revelatory. He did not address the issue of Sunni extremism. Instead he argued in essence that the Shiite Iranian regime is susceptible to logic, appeals to self-interest and incentives.

“I’m not big on extremism generally,” Obama said. “I don’t think you’ll get me to choose on those two issues. What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”

This view puts him at odds with Netanyahu’s understanding of Iran. In an interview after he won the premiership, the Israeli leader described the Iranian leadership to me as “a messianic apocalyptic cult.”

I asked Obama if he understood why his policies make the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries nervous: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard,” he said. “I think change is always scary.” source – Bloomberg.

by NTEB News Desk

Kerry Defends Peace Efforts as Israeli Criticism Gets Personal.


Image: Kerry Defends Peace Efforts as Israeli Criticism Gets Personal

Israeli officials’ jibes at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have intensified as he works on a blueprint for a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, forcing him to defend a mission already burdened by wide gaps.

“Unfortunately, there are some people in Israel, and in Palestine and in the Arab world, and around the world, who don’t support the peace process,” Kerry said yesterday in an interview on CNN. “I’ve been, quote, ‘attacked’ before by people using real bullets, not words. And I am not going to be intimidated.”

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Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon launched the opening salvo last month by describing him as “messianic” and “obsessed” with reaching a peace deal — remarks he later apologized for making. Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz fanned the flames this week by accusing Kerry of supporting Palestinian efforts to boycott Israel with remarks that were “offensive, unfair and intolerable.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to agree with Steinitz while not mentioning Kerry by name, telling his cabinet this week that “threats to boycott the state of Israel will not achieve their goal.”

Kerry had warned at a security conference in Munich on Feb. 1 that Israel could face growing economic sanctions if the peace talks failed. His remarks, he said, were “distorted” by his Israeli critics.

“I did not do anything except cite what other people are talking about as a problem, but I also have always opposed boycotts,” he later said.

Peace Vision

Kerry has been pushing to clinch a peace deal that has eluded Israelis and Palestinians for decades, and is preparing to present the sides with a vision of an accord that is to serve as a guideline for talks on a final agreement. Reports that the proposal includes handing over West Bank territory now populated by Jewish settlers have especially incensed Israelis opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Opponents include lawmaker Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home Party, who told Israel Radio that Kerry’s policies contained an “undertone” of anti- Semitism, before being asked by the Anti-Defamation League to retract the remark.

The official council representing Israel’s West Bank settlers has produced several videos parodying Kerry’s peace efforts. The latest, released this week, shows an actor portraying Kerry trying to persuade Israelis to give up control of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, located on territory claimed by the Palestinians, by promising to build a new one “closer to the beach.”

Precedents Set

Israeli criticism of the kind directed against Kerry is neither a first, nor the harshest, aimed at a U.S. secretary of state, said Mark Heller senior research fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“You had such language used against James Baker in the early 1990s, and even worse aimed at Henry Kissinger in the 1970s, when many Israelis attacked him as a Jewish traitor. But that was at street demonstrations; what’s new here is the level of criticism coming from ministers,” Heller said.

Baker, who prodded Israel into its first talks with Palestinian officials at the 1991 Madrid conference, was accused of anti-Semitism after he was reported using an expletive to express his frustration with Israel’s American-Jewish supporters. Kissinger drew street protests after the 1973 Mideast war as he pressed Israel to withdraw from Egyptian and Syrian territory it conquered.

Criticism Assailed

Kerry also has supporters in the cabinet who have criticized the attacks on him as damaging Israel’s alliance with its most important ally.

“Ministers and others are speaking in a way that upsets me as an Israeli,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading negotiations with the Palestinians, told Israel Radio this week. “There are people who don’t want to reach an agreement, they don’t care what Kerry will present.”

There are two likely reasons for the intensity of the Kerry criticism, Heller said.

“First, is that some ministers are saying these things intending to gain domestic political benefit,” he said. “Second, it may just be a sign of panic from opponents of the peace process that this time we might really be getting close to a deal.”

Editor’s Note: Over 50? Check Out These Free Government Giveaways… 

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Israeli Ministers Blast Kerry over Boycott Remark.


Secretary of State John Kerry came under further attack Monday by Israeli hawks who accuse him of manipulating the threat of an economic boycott to pressure Israel into peace concessions.

The latest war of words between the two allies erupted Saturday after Kerry warned that Israel was facing a growing campaign of delegitimization which would likely worsen if peace talks with the Palestinians collapsed.

Washington’s top diplomat also referred to “talk of boycotts” of Israel.

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A growing number of governments and businesses have recently said they will not trade with Israeli firms with ties to Jewish settlements, highlighting the creeping success of a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.

The so-called BDS movement — boycott, divestment and sanctions — works to convince governments, businesses and celebrities to cut ties with Israeli companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a bid to repeat the success of the boycott which ended apartheid in South Africa.

Hardliners in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were quick to lash out at Kerry.

One described his remarks as “offensive” and another accused him of working “to amplify” the boycott threat, prompting a terse statement from Washington urging Kerry’s critics to get their facts straight.

But there was no sign they were backing down on Monday.

“It is sad to see that the US administration does not understand the reality of the Middle East and exerts pressure on the wrong side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Gilad Erdan, Minister for Home Front Defence and a close associate of Netanyahu.

“I would have liked John Kerry to explain to (Palestinian president) Mahmud Abbas what is likely to happen if he continues to refuse to make peace,” he told public radio.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the far-right Jewish Home party, which opposes a two-state solution to the conflict, told army radio that in raising the threat of a boycott, Kerry was not being “an honest broker” in the negotiations.

Since January 1, the European Union has blocked all grants and funding to Israeli entities operating beyond the pre-1967 war lines, sparking growing alarm in Israel.

Netanyahu has called “hypocritical” the EU’s firm position against Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

On Sunday the prime minister took an indirect swipe at Kerry, saying attempts to boycott Israel were “immoral and unjust” and that he would not bow to pressure in the negotiations.

“No pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel, especially the security of Israel’s citizens. For both of these reasons, threats to boycott the State of Israel will not achieve their goal.”

Earlier Sunday, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz lashed out at Kerry, calling his remarks “offensive, unfair and intolerable,” and said Israel would could not be expected “to negotiate with a gun at its head while it discusses issues critical to its diplomatic and security interests.”

And on Saturday, Economy Minister and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett said Israel would not “give its country up over economic threats” and that it expected its allies “to stand by our side in the face of the anti-Semitic boycott attempts, not amplify them.”

But US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki hit back saying Kerry had demonstrated “staunch opposition to boycotts” and his remarks in Munich had merely “described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails.”

“His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed,” she said, suggesting his critics make efforts to “accurately portray his record and statements.”

Editor’s Note: New ‘Obamacare Survival Guide’ Reveals Dangers Ahead for Your Healthcare

© AFP 2014
Source: Newsmax.com

Israel, World Dignitaries, Honor Sharon at State Funeral.


Image: Israel, World Dignitaries, Honor Sharon at State FuneralTony Blair eulogizes Ariel Sharon during a state memorial service at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Jan. 13.

JERUSALEM — Israel said its last farewell to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday with a state ceremony outside the parliament building before his flag-draped coffin was taken on a cross-country procession to its final resting place at his family farm in the country’s south.With a high-powered crowd of VIPs and international dignitaries on hand, Sharon was eulogized as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting Israel’s security. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed the long list of visitors.

In a heartfelt address, Biden talked about a decades-long friendship with Sharon, saying the death felt “like a death in the family.”

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When the two discussed Israel’s security, Biden said understood how Sharon earned the nickname “The Bulldozer,” explaining how Sharon would pull out maps and repeatedly make the same points to drive them home.

“He was indomitable,” 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,” Biden said.

Sharon died on Saturday, eight years after a devastating stroke left him in a coma from which he never recovered. He was 85.

One of Israel’s greatest and most divisive figures, Sharon rose through the ranks of the military, moving into politics and overcoming scandal and controversy to become prime minister at the time of his stroke.

He spent most of his life battling Arab enemies and promoting Jewish settlement on war-won lands. But in a surprising about-face, he led a historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting all soldiers and settlers from the territory after a 38-year presence in a move he said was necessary to ensure Israel’s security.

His backers called him a war hero. His detractors, first and foremost the Palestinians, considered him a war criminal and held him responsible for years of bloodshed.

The speakers at Monday’s ceremony outside parliament largely glossed over the controversy, and instead focused on his leadership and personality.

“Arik was a man of the land,” President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and sometimes rival, said in his eulogy. “He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. 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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned from Sharon’s Cabinet to protest the Gaza withdrawal, said that he and Sharon didn’t always agree with each other. Nonetheless, he called Sharon “one of the big warriors” for the nation of Israel.

“Arik was a man of actions, pragmatic, and his pragmatism was rooted in deep emotion, deep emotion for the country and deep emotion for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.

Nearly 10 years on, the withdrawal from Gaza remains hotly debated in Israeli society. Supporters say Israel is better off not being bogged down in the crowded territory, which is now home to 1.7 million Palestinians.

Critics say the pullout has only brought more violence. Two years after the withdrawal, Hamas militants seized control of Gaza and stepped up rocket fire on Israel.

In a reminder of the precarious security situation, Palestinian militants on Monday fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip. Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel, where his body was being laid to rest, is within range of such projectiles, though but Monday’s missiles did not hit Israel. No injuries or damage were reported.

Biden praised Sharon’s determination in carrying out the Gaza pullout, which bitterly divided the nation.

“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 a more difficult and controversial decision he made. But he believed it and he did it. The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission.”

Blair, who is now an international envoy to the Middle East, said Sharon’s “strategic objective” never changed. “The same iron determination he took to the field of war he took to the chamber of diplomacy. Bold. Unorthodox. Unyielding,” he said.

Sharon’s coffin lay in state at the Knesset’s outdoor plaza where Israelis from all walks of life paid respects throughout Sunday.

In addition to Biden and Blair, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and foreign ministers of Australia and Germany were among those in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.

Even Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, sent a low-level diplomat, its embassy said.

After the ceremony ended, the closed coffin, draped in a blue and white Israeli flag, was placed in a military vehicle and driven in a police-escorted convoy toward Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel.

Crowds stood along the roadside and on bridges, snapping pictures and getting a final glimpse of the coffin as the procession of vehicles left Jerusalem and snaked down the highway outside the city’s picturesque hills.

The convoy made a brief stop at Latrun, the site of a bloody battle where Sharon was wounded during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, for a brief military ceremony before continuing south. His coffin was lowered into the ground in a military funeral at the family farm in southern Israel.

At Sharon’s graveside, his son Gilad remembered his father for overcoming the odds, whether it was battling a Palestinian uprising after becoming prime minister in 2001 or clinging to life in his final days even after his kidneys had stopped functioning.

“Again and again you turned the impossible to reality. That’s how legends are made. That’s how an ethos of a nation is created,” he said.

Sharon’s life will be remembered for its three distinct stages: First, was his eventful and contentious time in uniform, including leading a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed 69 Arabs, as well as his heroics in the 1973 Mideast war.

Then came his years as a vociferous political operator who helped create Israel’s settlement movement and masterminded the divisive Lebanon invasion in 1982. He was branded as indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. An uproar over the massacre cost him his job.

Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and statesman, capped by the dramatic Gaza withdrawal. Sharon appeared to be cruising toward re-election when he suffered the second, devastating stroke in January 2006.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

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